Murders in the parish–Mission, Ministry and security

My hearts and prayers go out to the families of the victims of the shootings at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, Md. The shooter is dead from a self-inflicted wound; the administrative assistant, Brenda Brewington is dead; the co-rector, Mary-Marguerite Kohn, remains on life support “to support the family intentions to provide the gift of life through organ donation.” More here.

It turns out the shooter was known to the parish, that he had accessed the parish’s food bank regularly, and that he had become belligerent in recent weeks.

It’s a shocking story, and it hits very close to home, given our own food pantry, the presence of the men’s drop-in shelter at Grace, and our regular traffic of homeless people in and out of doors.

I hate the security measures we have to take. I hate that it seems like we are a medium-security prison, that to meet me in my office, a visitor has to pass through at least three locked doors. I’ve preached about the message that level of security sends to people; I’ve preached about the mentality it creates in our staff and volunteers. And then I read this story.

We live in a dangerous world, with easy access to firearms and severely mentally ill people walking the streets. At the same time, our Savior calls us to minister among the homeless, hungry, and yes, the mentally ill. We want to open our doors and invite everyone in, never imagining that a horror like that perpetrated at St. Peter’s, Endicott City might strike us.

On Monday night, we will again welcome shelter guests and community residents to our Guild Hall for dinner and music. I will wonder, as I welcome them in, whether any of them might be capable of such heinous acts of violence.

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