Go to the Facebook page for St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Ellicot City, MD, and here's how they describe themselves:
St. Peter’s is a vibrant community of faith, sharing in the transforming
power of God's love, rooted in the Gospel of Christ, nourished in the
joy, hope, and beauty that are God's gifts, called to worship, to dream,
to risk, and to serve. We endeavor to seek and serve Christ in all
persons, always remembering:
With Christ as our Guide,
St Peter’s Episcopal Church at Ellicott Mills
Is an Open and Supportive Community
That puts God’s Love into Action through
Service, Spiritual Growth and Joyful Celebration
The doors of St. Peter’s open wide in the name of Jesus Christ.
According to news reports, yesterday at about 5:20pm, the sexton of the church discovered two people--Rev. Dr. Mary-Marguerite Kohn and a church secretary named Brenda-- shot in the church office. Police, including the SWAT team, swarmed into the neighborhood where they found the alleged gunman, identified only as an "unbalanced homeless man", also dead in the woods behind the church, the gun at his side in an apparent suicide.
We've known this kind of senseless gun violence in the Episcopal diocese of Florida. Earlier this year, a fired teacher from The Episcopal High School in Jacksonville returned to campus and shot to death the school's principal, Dale Regan, before killing himself. The pain was felt from one end of the diocese to the other, especially among the many children who knew students attending EHS. The pain that will be felt by all those in and around the St. Peter's community will be enormous.
Coincidentally, theologian and author Diana Butler Bass is scheduled to speak at the Maryland Episcopal Diocesan Convention, which is this weekend. Her topic is "Facing the Future without Fear." Timely, in a very weird and sad way.
As I think about this, I am again saddened at the thought that a place that has opened its doors wide in the name of Jesus Christ becomes a killing field. We assume that churches are safe from "the world" and yet really they are no safer than any other building. Look at places outside the United States; how many times are people killed, bombed, beaten, burned inside houses of worship? So is the answer to lock our doors, bar our windows, and otherwise retreat from the forces that disrupt the goodness of God?
I look to these words from 1 Peter 5:
Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves; keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while,
the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ,
will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Bad stuff happens, especially in a society with way too many guns in the hands of way too many people who really ought not to have them. At times like these, we need to recognize that Christ is there feeling crucified again because of the violence we inflict on one another. Violence that includes the fact that this alleged shooter was an "unbalanced homeless man."
Amidst grief and pain, we must remain committed to doing what we can to advocate for better mental health services, ways to combat the problem of homelessness, and advocate for sensible gun laws to cut down on the number of weapons in the hands of the "unbalanced" people.
Prayers for the people of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, for Rev. Dr. Marguerite-Mary Kohn and the medical team that is helping to save her life. May God be with them granting them strength and courage and easing the pain in their hearts. And may light perpetual shine upon Brenda and the "unbalanced homeless man." In your Love, God, you can reconcile all things. May each find their place toward your eternal flame. Amen.