A Prayerful Response to Tragedy
Saturday, St. Brigid's Community was gathered at Chapel Rock Retreat Center in Prescott, Arizona for our annual Young Adult and Young Family Retreat, when we heard the Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several others had been shot. We gathered around cell phones, computers and televisions to read and to listen to reports as they unfolded.
Like most people that I know, we were in disbelief, confused, frightened, uncertain and clearly without words to express our overwhelmed spiritual and emotional selves. We, in other words, were in shock.
Being the leader of our group it took a bit to process this on a personal level and then to gather myself, and our group, for a community response. We did the only thing we knew to do, and what millions of people did, we prayed. And we are still praying.
On Sunday our community gathered in worship at Chapel Rock. Sunday was the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is our practice on this particular day to renew our Baptismal Covenant. The Baptismal Covenant begins with a question and affirmative response to the Apostles Creed. The Creed is followed with these questions.
Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?
Will you persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
We are asked to respond to each question – “I will, with God’s help.”
In response to tragedy, in response to that which steals our words and freezes our emotions, we are called to pray. But, then, what do we do when our words return? Do we fall prey to the temptation to make a response with our words that is as violent as a gunshot? I am praying that our community will not do such a thing. I am praying our community will continue to pray and to respond to our Baptismal Covenant with the words, “ I will, with God’s help.”
For the remainder of January and maybe for some time beyond, I am asking the St. Brigid’s Community and the St. Augustine’s Episcopal Parish to renew our Baptismal Covenant each time we gather to worship as our response to violence. These may be the only words we can say with any confidence and any promise of hope for something good to come from something so dark.