At our weekly staff meeting we took time to discuss last week’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. As a staff, and like people everywhere, we expressed a variety of feelings and emotions. As she was visibly upset, I invited Jeanie Sablatura, St. David’s Director of Communications, to put her thoughts into words:
As I struggle with the recent shooting in Newtown, I am pulled in two directions. As a mom with a Kindergartner, I imagine the sheer terror these children must have felt. Kids who still need help brushing their teeth and getting dressed, tasked with the frightening order to run or hide for their lives. I wonder, as a teacher, how can you possibly make an entire classroom of panicked little ones be quiet so the gunman won’t hear them? As a parent, the blood-run-cold feeling when you hear the school is under attack. The bring-you-to-your-knees moment when you see your child emerge from the holding center. Or don’t. Visions of these parents waking up on Christmas morning without their children keeps me up at night.
I’m also struggling with it from a professional standpoint. As a communicator, I want to know what we- my church- can do? We’re hundreds of miles away with thousands of churches between us. Pray? Blog? Post something that a million other people already have? I don’t know the answer and that bothers me. I feel helpless to help, and helpless to advise on what should be done to take care of our people, the ones who are mourning a tragedy that no one can really wrap their head around.
Jeanie expresses well the confusion and helplessness that we feel. We are led to respond in different ways and have different needs. As a Church community we deeply desire to be present in all possible ways. I have said and heard others say, “All we can do is pray.” This is a true statement but that simple sentence may be heard in different ways. It can sound futile. “Pray? That’s all I can do?”, and yet as people of faith we do believe to pray is to do everything that can be done – “ALL I can do is pray!” It is important to remember that prayer, as EVERYTHING we can do, may take a many forms.
On Sunday we placed a memorial to the Holy Innocents* of Newtown in our main foyer. Though this is not always a quiet, prayerful place to stop, I felt it important that all who enter our doors know that our hearts and prayers are with those who suffer and those who grieve. This memorial includes vigil candles as a sign of our prayers, a flower as a sign of hope and prayers for the Innocents and all who mourn. It will remain through our celebrations of Christmas helping us acknowledge that we do not celebrate the birth of Christ apart from the brokenness of the world – that Christ came into the brokenness to redeem and save.
By way of personal prayer, I offer a couple of suggestions that I find helpful when moved to pray for specific intercessions. A simple note or sign (a star?) written in dry erase marker on my bathroom mirror is both a prayer and a reminder to pray each time I see it and as I begin and end my day. Also, a note or word written on a small card and placed in a pocket, on a desk, screen saver or anywhere it will be seen throughout the day is, again, both a prayer and a reminder.
In my own confusion and struggle to make sense out of things that occur in this broken world, I have remembered a woman’s Bible Study that I led the day after the events of 9/11. The study was made up of the ‘little old ladies” (believe me, a completely complimentary phrase) on the day after 9/11. These wonderful, faithful women had seen it all. They had lived through the depression and remembered well the turbulent times of WWII when the outcome of that war was in doubt. They had been through life and death of loved ones, illness, and grief of all kinds. Yes, they were shaken by the events of the previous day, but their faith was not. If ever there was a group of people who knew the real meaning of “ALL we can do is pray,” it was these women. On that day they led me in prayer and assurance of the hope that is ours in Christ. Most of those women are now dead, passed as we believe ‘to greater glory’. I know that they continue to pray for us and with us – with all the Communion of Saints who have gone before. I find comfort in that and know that our call is to join them in prayer, invoking and accepting the presence of the living God in the face of darkness.
Please know that your Church and your clergy are here for you always. Should you have need or desire, please call and we will make ourselves available. Yes, it is a busy season, but this holy season and the coming of the Christ’s light is for these times. He who is the light of the world that the darkness could not, cannot, and will not overcome is with us and longs for us, especially when darkness threatens.
*Holy Innocents – the Feast of the Church commemorating the death of innocent children at the time of Christ’s birth (Matthew 2:16-18 and Jeremiah 31:15-17).