A black woman stands with a hand-written poster that simply says “WHY?” in front of a palm tree outside Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. As I learned about the horrendous shooting in this downtown, historical Charleston church founded by a slave, I found myself wondering the same thing. Perhaps the most faithful thing we can utter to God when confronted with such evil is “Why?”
This tragedy might resonate with us here at St. Peter’s in particularly strong ways: We are an urban church that has decided to keep our doors unlocked during the day. We have been the target of a small group of people who disagree with our Gospel conviction that all of God’s children (gay, straight, black, white, brown, young, and old) are welcome in God’s house. We are committed to becoming “a place known for radical hospitality and love,” as we say in our vision.
In all these ways, we are vulnerable. And I can’t help but wonder if this vulnerability is one of the main ways St. Peter’s practices being bold followers of Jesus. Jesus was vulnerable to the point of death, and in some mysterious way I think this is our call, too. But that wasn’t the end of Jesus’ story. Nor is death the end of the story for our nine faithful brothers and sisters who died so senselessly last night. Resurrection is. In Baptism, we participate in both Christ’s death and Christ’s resurrection. Life is the final word. In this promise, lies my hope…and indeed the hope of the world which cries out “why,” even as it sings “Alleluia.”
A Prayer for the Human Family (p. 815 of the Book of Common Prayer)
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
–The Rev. Joslyn Ogden Schaefer, Associate Rector