December 15th will mark the three year anniversary of my ordination to the Priesthood.
Addison was a mere three months old. I was home in Phoenix for the first time since getting married. My whole family was present and we were celebrating everything we could- my ordination, Christmas, births and soon to be births. It was joy filled and fun and marvelous.
I was so wrapped up in what lay ahead- a new call at St. Mary’s awaited my return to Texas. My new Rector Beth was present at my ordination, showing then what I have now learned to be unwavering support and camaraderie. It seemed as if it were the culmination of all that I hoped God’s call would be for me to the priesthood- joy and hope and love all around.
But how it all changed. The day before, December 14th, I sat in my sister’s living room glued to the TV, shocked and horrified at what I was seeing. Weeping as I held my tiny baby in my arms, imagining the fear and devastation of the parents, family and friends of the 20 children and 6 adults who were murdered in their school, Sandy Hook Elementary. Of the guilty relief of those who survived. Of the misinformation and fear-baiting. Of my fear of what it means to birth a child (now 2) into a world where such things happen.
Today I still cry, am still overwhelmed.
And the next day, completely undone, a stole was draped over my shoulders and a chasuble over my head, and I took vows to be a priest in a world where such evil is present and real.
I remember praying with Reverend Beth before the service. She asked me what I would like prayers for, and I cried as I asked for prayers not for myself or my (hopefully) lifetime of ministry, but for the families of those who lost loved ones to gun violence and for a world in which that happens.
As I reflect on my ministry and ordination, the shootings at Sandy Hook are so deeply woven into my start as a priest. Evil and sin are so closely linked to my understanding of the world in which I minister.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised then, that in the three years of my priestly ministry, gun violence has loomed large in my eyes and in the narrative in our country. As a Quaker disguised as an Episcopalian, violence and murder in any circumstance is abhorrent to me. Yet it is inescapable, common, and an every day occurrence. And the weight of the daily news- of the reality that there have been more mass shootings in the United States this year than there have been days, is among many things, a testament to the need for God in a world that has distorted what it means to be brother and sister, a world that has distorted exactly what the love, mercy and redemption of Jesus looks like.
I offer to you prayers that I have been praying as I reflect on my priestly ministry. I am a firm believer that prayer comes in many forms. I encourage you to attempt with me to have your prayers not just be something said silently or aloud, but that your prayers also take action in the world.
I believe that gun violence doesn’t have to be something that is a common occurrence. I know that it isn’t within God’s will. And I know that me simply not murdering people isn’t enough- real change will take courage and perseverance. But most of all, it will take prayers turned into action. Won’t you pray with me?