by the Rev. Paul McLain
We are hurting, angry, and reeling from the senseless shooting at Covenant School in Nashville, resulting in the deaths of 3 children and 3 adults, as well as the life of the shooter. We were already reeling from the deaths of 26 people in the storms and tornados in our region over the weekend that decimated the already struggling small town of Rolling Fork, Mississippi. At times like these, I’m not sure there are any words. A new prayer on the occasion of a disaster in the Episcopal Church’s Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 2022, comes close –
“Compassionate God, whose Son Jesus wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus: Draw near to us in this time of sorrow and anguish, comfort those who mourn, strengthen those who are weary, encourage those in despair, and lead us all to fullness of life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.”
I find that it’s not words that go through my head but a song. Upon seeing the face of Hallie Scruggs, the nine-year-old daughter of the senior pastor at Covenant, I’ve been hearing over and over, ‘Where Is Love?’ – a song from the musical Oliver! I directed that musical years ago and most of our cast members were around age 9. There was an innocence in Hallie’s eyes that reminded me of the young orphan Oliver Twist, who was exposed to the evil of the world at a young age. Yet, his song “Where Is Love?” expresses his longing and never-ending hope somehow to find love in our world.
Hallie’s aunt described her as “a beautiful, big, huge light.” Hallie recently went on a mission trip to Belize, where she was excited about having her hair braided and where she had a very big heart for loving people and for serving people. I can picture her singing,
‘Where is love?
Does it fall from skies above?
Is it underneath the willow tree
That I’ve been dreaming of?’
Where is love? I believe it’s still present in the hearts and souls of Hallie and the others who died in the shooting in Nashville and in the tornados and storms in Rolling Fork and the surrounding area. Their light and love are forever united to God and to us.
Love is also present in our response to these tragedies. Finding ways to join and support the work of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Episcopal Relief and Development, and the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, are tangible acts of channeling our anger, hurt, grief, and love to bring an end to senseless gun violence and to lift up the survivors of natural disasters in our region.
Next week, we will walk in the steps of Jesus’ passion for all humanity. We already long for his outpouring heart as we reel from the last few days. I pray that we somehow all find and give love together.