The murder of 49 innocent people in Orlando has been weighing heavily on my heart. And I know I’m not the only one.

On Monday of last week, I attended the opening service for the annual conference of the Association of Anglican Musicians. I write each year about how much this conference means to me. The opportunity to worship, learn, and speak with colleagues from across the country is always encouraging and inspiring. But we started off quite a subdued group. As I said my private prayers before the start of the service, I was flipping through the hymnal looking for words to help calm my anger at what happened in Orlando. The Hymnal 1982 did not disappoint. I discovered these words and read them with a new perspective – Where generation, class, or race divide us to our shame, he sees not labels but a face, a person, and a name (Hymn #603).

A person, and a name. I found myself thinking of each of the 49 individuals – distinct persons with distinct names. No one exactly like them ever before or after. Each person with a family who loved them. Each person with friends who spent hours hoping and praying that they wouldn’t see that particular name on the list of the deceased. I cannot imagine the horror of their final moments or the anguish of their family and friends. One of the most moving accounts I heard on the news was from one of the policemen who surveyed the crime scene. Amidst all of the bodies, he spoke about having to block out the constant ringing of the deceased’s cell phones as loved ones tried to reach them.

It’s easy to view people collectively by what “group” they fit into. They were Latino/Latina/Latinx, African-American, Caucasian, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Straight Ally, Transgender, Floridians, Puerto Ricans, etc. But at their core, they were each a beloved child created in the image of God whose earthly life was cut short. This just isn’t fair.

Yet saints their watch are keeping, their cry goes up, “How long?” (Hymn 525). When will this madness stop?  When can politics be put aside and real solutions sought? Why is this type of mass murder becoming so common in our country? I am looking and praying for answers, and I suspect you are too.

I close with a hymn text I recently encountered that does not appear in our hymnal but it resonates with me now. I invite you to read it and use it as a prayer. And let us continue to remember each of the 49 victims:

 

For the healing of the nations,

Lord, we pray with one accord,

for a just and equal sharing

of the things that earth affords.

To a life of love in action

help us rise and pledge our word.

 

Lead us forward into freedom,

from despair your world release,

that, redeemed from war and hatred,

all may come and go in peace.

Show us how through care and goodness

fear will die and hope increase.

 

All that kills abundant living,

let it from the earth be banned:

pride of status, race or schooling,

dogmas that obscure your plan.

In our common quest for justice

may we hallow life's brief span.

 

You, Creator God, have written

your great name on humankind;

for our growing in your likeness

bring the life of Christ to mind;

that by our response and service

earth its destiny may find.

Text: Fred Kaan (1929-2009)

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