The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:5)
This week has brought a deepening appreciation for the power of the Body of Christ gathering and affirming our faith, our confidence in the One who is. Tuesday afternoon our community was shaken by the tragic murder-suicide that took the lives of Episcopal’s beloved head of school Dale D. Regan and teacher Shane Schumerth.
Though I did not attend Episcopal, I immediately thought of my many friends who did and especially of those who worked side-by-side with Dale for many years. Throughout the week several parishes held vigils, and Tuesday night I attended the vigil at St. John’s Cathedral. The instinct to gather and be together in God’s presence was striking. Thank God for the beautiful liturgy of the Episcopal Church – Holy Scripture gracefully arranged to give us the words to pray when we are at loss for words.
Thursday evening at our Lenten Recovery Eucharist at St. Francis In-the-Field, we recognized that this event has forever changed us as a community even as we affirmed the presence of God and God’s ability to bring good out of the most tragic circumstances. Several at our intimate gathering had connections to Episcopal School, as alumni, parents of alumni, and as former staff of the school. At communion, we consecrated bread and wine to carry to the memorial service that would be held on campus the next day, on Friday, and so as a community we were able to join together, to offer our broken hearts to God and to know somehow that healing and transformation will occur.
The theme of all of our gatherings this week has been to affirm that light always overcomes and swallows up darkness, that love always prevails. The Very Rev. Kate Moorehead summed it up during her homily at Friday’s memorial service as she addressed students and the wider community that flooded the campus to mourn with one another and to show support:
“We believe that Dale’s love lives on in each one of you, that it surrounds us, and we believe that this love has not only not been diminished by this violence but it has grown.”
At the end of the service, the 30 or more priests who served, fanned out across campus, to bless every nook and cranny with holy water and prayer, to reclaim this holy ground for the students and staff. As I walked along a corridor, I met two lovely young men and asked them if there were some place in particular that would mean a lot to them if it were blessed. “The baseball diamond,” one responded. They escorted me out to the field and we walked the bases together talking about baseball and God and the need to reclaim this place for Good. We blessed each position and the dugouts. We blessed the batting cages and the stands where people come to watch them play. We prayed for God’s presence and love and for a sense of safety and peace. We prayed for joy.