Learn more about who we are by following our blog, written by our pastor, preacher, and chief evangelist. Engage in the everyday sacred as Abby writes about the deep and ordinary all at once.
If you are looking for faithful prayer, please read my colleague Mary Luti’s blog entitled, And Love is Everything: A Newtown Carol.
Poetry often expresses what prose cannot. I am grateful for her words:
Love is a sea of sorrow,
love is a broken wing;
love has no guns, no forces,
love cannot win a battle:
And love is everything.
If you are willing to be present to the empty, please continue to read.
Sandy Hook. December 14, 2012. Adam Lanza. 20 children between ages 6 and 7. Six adult staff. The deadliest mass shooting at a school in US history. The third deadliest mass shooting in US history.
On December 14, 2012, my sweet freckle faced boy was a first grader across the street at our public elementary school. Now my daughter is a first grader at the same school. Today she is probably doing any of the following things at school-- mastering her pencil grip, learning short vowel sounds, working on her addition and subtraction facts, listening to her teacher read from their latest chapter book, absorbing what it takes to be a positive member of a community, and daydreaming, because 1st graders still have permission to daydream.
I walked her to school this morning like normal. I watched the bounce of her ponytail and kissed her goodbye before she ran happily into school, eager to begin her day. I am deeply grateful that my daughter is seven and totally oblivious to this day’s history. Totally oblivious that some mom just like me walked their child just like her to school, confident that elementary school is a safe place.
The shooting prompted renewed debate about gun control. I was certain the death of twenty small children would finally tip the balance. Nothing changed. Our culture's obsession with guns persists. Most political leaders remain cowards, more willing to talk about the death of an aborted fetus than innocent kindergarteners and first graders. If we had paid as much attention to Sandy Hook as Benghazi, would that have helped?
Nothing has changed around gun laws, but I will tell you what has changed. Twenty families have one less stocking to hang this Christmas. Countless other families still wonder why their child was spared. First responders still wake in the middle of the night from ceaseless nightmares. A new school has replaced the site of the killing and a memorial garden has been planted over the rubble of the classrooms where 20 kindergartners and 1st graders were shot dead.
But has anything changed outside of Newtown, CT? I can still keep December 14th at arms length even if my heart aches for the families of the victims. I know viscerally what it is like to love a first grader, yet I am still confident that my first grader is safe. For me, little has changed. That is the shameful truth I must confess.
What are we to make of this senseless violence, knowing that their deaths didn’t at least prompt change? What should we do this day as faithful people? One thing we can do is lament.
The Biblical book, Lamentations, means how in Hebrew. To actively lament means to let out anger and grief, to cry out “Enough!” and ask “How God, how?” I learned in my pastoral education that lamenting is essential to the healing process. We were told to honor the lamentations of those we serve and that in doing so healing would eventually come. We were told that faithful lamentation makes our grief holy.
Today, as I returned home from walking my daughter to school, I decided that what I learned in seminary was a crock of shit. Lament isn’t sacred. Yes, it should be spoken and heard. Yes, I do believe God bears witness to the cries of those keening with grief. But I know that lament isn’t always followed by healing. I refuse to say the “comforting theology” I was trained to speak, that lament transforms grief into something holy. There is nothing holy or sacred about 20 small bloody bodies. Nothing. No lament can make it so.
My one offering on this horrid day--lament-- has come up empty. The lament I offer beside the lament of the mother who cannot get out of bed today, remembering the way her beloved child looked before she dropped her off at school, is feeble.
Empty. Futile. Feeble. Guns still proliferate. Our nation still bleeds. And twenty children are still gone.
How long O Lord, how long must we wait for guns to be banished from our nation? How long until the abominable violence stops? How long?
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.