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Message from Rev. Carmen

Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on May 25, 2022 at 11:15 AM

It is 6:13 a.m. and I’m still somewhat numb. I look out my living room window and see a yellow school bus driving down Beaty Street. My brain is momentarily jerked out of its fog as a lump rises in my throat. God, protect whoever is on that bus today. And every day.

 

Tonight, I will offer the invocation at a ceremony to celebrate our preschoolers. Many of them are off to kindergarten in the fall, including my own child. I begin typing out my prayer because I’m afraid that if I try to pray extemporaneously, I will just sob. But as I attempt to craft some celebratory and hopeful words, my mind wanders to a cynical place. Where does one buy a bullet-proof vest for a 5-year-old? Do they keep them in the school supply aisle between the Ticonderoga pencils and the glue sticks?

 

I’m staying off social media today, but I do check CNN. As of early Wednesday morning when I write this, most of the names of the victims in Uvalde, TX have not yet been released. So in my morning prayers, I recite the names of those gunned down in a Buffalo, NY grocery store and a Laguna Woods, CA church only days ago: Roberta. Geraldine. Margus. Andre. Aaron. Celestine. Heyward. Pearl. Ruth. John.

 

Our news feeds have already moved on from these victims, even before this latest mass shooting occurred. Once we know the names of the children and teachers from Robb Elementary, I will add their names to my daily litany. But at some point down the road—maybe weeks, maybe mere days—my prayers will move on. How sickening is that? To already know that, eventually, I will move on from this pain. Only to feel a fresh wave when another shooting inevitably happens again someplace else. And meanwhile, a whole community of parents, siblings, grandparents, classmates, teachers, neighbors, and so many others, will never move on from this pain.

 

I was a junior in high school when Columbine happened. It was terrifying, but at the time, I could not fathom how it would become a deadly pattern. It should have stopped there for good. I never dreamed that each subsequent class of elected officials would fail to protect my future child as they had failed to protect my peers.

 

I remember, after Sandy Hook in 2012, trying to conceptualize the age and size of a first-grader. At that time in my life, I was not around elementary school kids very often. Now I know – first graders are tiny. They may be a bit bigger than kindergartners, but they are still babies.

 

I remember climbing into the pulpit of my parish in Richmond four days after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. I remember that one of the students killed there was an Episcopalian named Carmen. That fact shook me out of my numbness. She was active in her youth group. She was somebody’s baby, too.

 

And now, nineteen more babies are gone. And two teachers. Others are wounded and in critical condition. Kyrie Eleison. What else is there to say?

 

St. Alban’s, I wish I had more words of comfort for you today. Hopefully by Sunday I will. But the best way I know to be present with you right now is to be honest about my grief and anger, even if it is raw. I hope you understand.

 

Today, all I can manage is to ask Jesus to cradle our broken hearts in his.

 

Yours in Christ,

Carmen

 

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