Dean’s Message on the School Shooting in Uvalde, Texas (May 25, 2022)

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UPDATE: Bishop Greg Rickel's message to the Diocese about the shooting may be read here

Dear friends,

“Shocked-but-not-surprised…” That’s the sad truth of the reaction many have expressed in the wake of another mass shooting in this nation—the 213th of this year. According to the Gun Violence Archive, the numbers tell a certain story:

  • 213 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2022 through May 24 (the 144th day of the year) [source; source]
  • 693 mass shootings in 2021
  • Mass shootings in this nation have increased 50% since 2020 and nearly doubled since 2017 [source]
  • 27 mass shootings in schools in 2022, at least 140 dead

The numbers are sobering; they prompt outrage, disgust, horror… but they do not tell the full story. We know the names of schools because of this blight of violence, seared into our collective memory that remains haunted by the serial trauma—Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Marjorie Stone Douglas, Santa Fe, to name just a few here. Now Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, is added to the long lamentable list. How long, O Lord, how long!

And we will say the names of those who died yesterday, as we did with those who died a week ago in Buffalo, and those before that… and those that are yet to come. We say their names prayerfully, with intention and purpose, as we commend them to God while holding their families in our aggrieved hearts. It is not a hopeless act to pray in such times, even as the weight of this nation’s epidemic of gun violence and repeated failure of our elected leaders may feel like there is no way out of this nightmare.

But there is; there must be. We must take the long view. Ten years ago, after Sandy Hook, I stood with fellow interfaith clergy in the sanctuary of Temple De Hirsch Sinai as we brought our moral outrage, our broken hearts, and our collective resolve to bear in that crucible moment. With civic leaders, we forged a new enterprise—the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility (WAGR), which has had extraordinary impact in our state. Good things have come from that effort, and we must continue. It is not hopeless.

I refuse to concede my hope to such evil and its conspiracy with feckless politicians who lack the courage to act. I refuse to concede my hope in God who I believe with all my heart is calling us into this work, even as we discern what that may be through the prism of our tears… tears shed for the children who have died, for all children who live in fear today, for all parents who heartache, and really for all people, including you and me, who bear the collective trauma of this insidious violence.

I will say more on Sunday in the sermon, and there is an interfaith vigil being considered, but for now I bid you reach out to your friends and family, and to one another in this cathedral community, and hold each other in your hearts. Know that you are in mine. And your clergy will hold the space with you—just ask.

Let love be our antidote to the venom of gun violence. Pour appropriate resources into your local school. Check in on the teachers and mental health professionals whom you know. Parents of young children, too. Get involved.

And I bid you be present in your daily prayers, show up in our corporate prayers and worship. Resist the numbness that can come in these moments. Be gentle with yourself, too. We take the long view, and we will find our way together.

Peace and prayers,

The Very Reverend Steven L. Thomason
Dean and Rector

Selected Prayers from Enriching Our Worship resource of the Episcopal Church

Gracious God, we come before you this day in pain and sorrow. We grieve the loss of the children and teacher in Texas. Give your grace to those who grieve, that they may find comfort in your presence and be strengthened by your Spirit. Be with the entire human family as they mourn, and draw all together in your healing love; in the name of the one who suffered, died, and rose for us, Jesus our Savior. Amen.

For a Child Who Dies by Violence
Loving God, Jesus gathered your little ones in his arms and blessed them. Have pity on those who mourn for the children in Uvalde— innocents slaughtered by the violence of our fallen world. Be with us as we struggle with the mysteries of life and death; in our pain, bring your comfort, and in our sorrow, bring your hope and your promise of new life, in the name of Jesus our Savior. Amen.

God our deliverer, gather our horror and pity for the death of your children into the compass of your wisdom and strength, that through the night we may seek and do what is right, and when morning comes trust ourselves to your cleansing justice and new life; through Christ our Savior. Amen.

One Response

  1. Kathy Albert
    | Reply

    My grief is taking the form of outrage. “How long, O Lord, how long?” as our predominant, consistent response to 10+ years of public shootings is getting very old in my lexicon. OF COURSE, our hearts cry, AGAIN, as we make our way through yet another one {several!} of these tragedies. Yet, my prayer takes me to hearing our God asking of us, “How long, MY PEOPLE, how long?” How long are we going to mourn and cry and WAIT for some kind of deliverance to come from Someone Else? Why have we not yet gotten that the only intervention that will ever happen is the one(s) that come from US and our collective ACTION?

    We are making meaningful progress towards providing long-overdue reparations for African-Americans today because the Black community WAS IN THE STREETS after just about every time another Black man, woman or child was murdered by police. And with George Floyd’s murder, two years ago yesterday, African-Americans and their allies VIGOROUSLY protested, got in decision-makers’ faces and continue to refuse to be silent until they get some substantial results. The docile, cautious, keep-your-head-down, don’t-rock-the-boat-just-keep-my-personal-world-safe-and-I-won’t-make-any-real-trouble White community would do well to humbly learn from Black Americans and follow suit, IN ACTION. Do you ardently care about stopping mass shootings in the US? Put your body where your mouth is. We say we’re “incarnational people”. Well, where’s the Incarnation??

    The thing is, none of us need to or should take action alone. What if St. Mark’s organized a delegation of parishioners to go to the other Washington to bang on senators’ doors and have some no-nonsense conversations with them about how close gun violence has come to US {MARYSVILLE!}, how we personally have been impacted – probably not directly, but possibly through extended family and friends across the country – how we’re NOT going to go away, but indeed, will get louder and more strident every time they continue their negligence. What if some of us, after prayerful consideration, decided to do civil disobedience outside of Mitch McConnell’s and other Republican senators’ offices, got some media attention, were arrested? This is the kind of action that substantial gun control is going to take in this country. Being ‘nice’ has gotten us virtually nowhere when it comes to meaningful, substantial change.

    What are we waiting for? Divine Intervention from a God Who has no body now but ours? Get up, St. Mark’s, pick up your mat, stop complaining and WALK!!

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