The hardest part of teaching Sunday school to the middle schoolers is that they are always asking the question, “If God loves us and the world, why does he let bad things happen?” Surprisingly, pointing them to the Book of Job and telling them to read never seems to work. I was reminded of that question when I first sat down next to panels of the AIDS quilt last week because the stark numbers of AIDS deaths can be overwhelming. Why has God let this – or any number of natural tragedies – occur? But as I enjoyed what had to be the most glorious day this summer and a much needed respite from the heat and my own busy schedule, I started to remember how much beauty and love there is all around us.
I strolled around to get to know my panels, learning intimate details about each of the people so lovingly remembered on each 3’ x 6’ quilt. Soon, I was introducing visitors to my new-found acquaintances. Those of us in the churchyard wondered why J.O.’s quilt included a pig wearing boxer shorts, and I felt a connection to the panel commemorating several Alexandrians. I was sad for each of these young sufferers, but there was love and hope in the making of each quilt, the greater NAMES project, the display of the quilts, and the visitors who chose to spend some of their day remembering them. In this poignant balance I was reminded of God’s abundant love and mercy: he doesn’t promise us that this life will be easy or fair, but He is with us always in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Resurrection.
Jessica is a parishioner at Christ Church Alexandria who volunteered to spend time watching over the panels of the AIDS memorial quilts that were on display at Christ Church (both inside the church and in the churchyard) during the July 22 – 27 International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C.