Let your compassion be swift to meet us;
For we have been brought very low.
Psalm 79 :8 b,c
Yesterday I was in meetings all day- from 9:00 AM -3:30 PM- with my cell phone turned to mute. I climbed in my car at 7:00 AM to begin the day, and got home at 5:30 PM. I was engaged in the business of the Church: meeting with a priest in a conversation about transition and his church, gathering with the clergy of a convocation to hear what was on their hearts and minds, and ending the day with an interview of a bright, interesting, experienced priest who would like to come and work here, in our diocese. It was a good day. A day filled with stories, insight and hope.
I had no idea that in Oregon, lives were being shattered by a gunman shooting wildly into a classroom of students at a community college.
My drive home was lovely. I marveled, again, at the splendor of the mountains on Rt. 322 and saw a hint of color in the otherwise deep green, velvety hills. I looked ahead in my mind to the next week or two which I knew would provide a wonderful autumnal color show.
Ten lives taken. Several others sent to the hospital, wounded. One or two in critical condition. The gunman dead, too.
As I drove down the road with the radio off, I took advantage of the time to do some work: I mused about this blog, about the sermon that I would write on Friday, about the presentation I would give on Friday night at Convention and about the Bishop’s address for Saturday of Convention. There’s a lot of writing and presentations in this job of Bishop and I love that. I love to write. I love to preach. I prayed in the car, as I am wont to do: I prayed for those whom I know are sick. I prayed for my children. I prayed for those in the path of the oncoming hurricane and I prayed for Lorrie and Jesse whom I will confirm on Sunday and Lynn whom we will receive into the Church.
Chris Harper Mercer. What was on his mind as he drove in his car to the Umpqua Community College with three pistols and a long gun at his side? How angry was he? What was the cause of his derangement? How long had he been mentally ill, working up to this sinful and violent act? Where were his parents? His friends? People who might have helped him? How did we fail him? What was his story? What a desperate act.
It was not until I got home, sat down on the sofa, turned on my computer to tend to the day’s mounting emails when I saw it: the New York Times banner flashed as an overlay on my computer: “Shooting at Oregon Community College. 10 dead, scores injured. Gunman dead.” I thought, immediately of Newtown. And Columbine. I thought immediately of the parents and loved ones of the lost. I prayed in thanksgiving that God would receive these 10 into God’s loving arms and into the eternal embrace of heaven, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing but life everlasting.
When is enough, enough? Honestly, in this pacifist’s heart, enough was enough back at Genesis 4: 8. As I did the tiniest bit of research, I discovered that there have been 179 school shootings in the past 16 years, since Columbine. 179. (http://www.westword.com/news/columbine-to-newtown-a-tragic-list-of-school-shootings-since-1999-5844141)
What is our prayerful response? To pray for the dead, to pray for those who mourn and to pray for those who have trespassed against us.
And prayer can also be made in action: to write to our legislators to enact gun reform so that access to weapons is carefully screened through background checks. This will not keep every gun out of the hands of those desperate to perform acts of violence, but it will help. And it is the responsible act, to do everything that we can to curb the wave of tragic violence in our country.
Pray with me.
Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.