Reflecting on 12/14 in Newtown

Started by Rob Morris, December 14, 2022, 09:51:34 AM

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Rob Morris

This is the letter I sent my congregation today.

December 14, 2022

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord
~ Psalm 27:1,13-14

To all the saints at Christ the King,

You can probably remember where you were when you heard the news. There was a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown. Shocking as that was, no one yet knew the extent of the trauma that had taken place. We had to learn...

Over the next few days, we had to learn that 20 children and 6 educators had been shot and killed. We had to learn that 2 additional adults had been wounded and 12 children witnesses had fled the two classrooms and survived. We had to learn that many more children had been forced to evacuate the building and, through an accident, the events had been broadcast on the school's loudspeaker system, meaning that everyone in the school had heard the events. Cars had been abandoned in the middle of the streets in Sandy Hook as families rushed to the firehouse to learn if their child or adult loved one was still alive.

And, after several heart-rending hours of waiting, 26 families learned that the answer was no.

We had to learn how to grieve in the midst of our congregation. Christ the King gathered that same night for a prayer service led by the District President of the LCMS New England District and other area LCMS pastors. I was not there. I was with a family who had just learned their child would not be returning to them in this lifetime. We gathered again the next day, a Saturday. We continued gathering every day for a week. We gathered every month for half a year. We gathered on 12/14 every year for 5 years. We learned it's okay to cry together, to question together. And we learned to find hope and light in Christ in the midst of the darkness and doubt.

We learned that ministering in the face of trauma is complicated... some within our national church body were upset by my presence at the prayer vigil that was held on 12/16 at the High School. We learned how to forgive those who judge with less than all the facts. We learned the tremendous value that a golden hug from a golden retriever could provide to those who are hurting or angry or despairing. And then, we got to see that value played out in the schools and hospitals and nursing homes of our own communities and far beyond for nearly 10 years of comfort dog ministry.

We learned how to trust one another through challenges... town challenges, Synod challenges, and our own uncertainty. We learned how to welcome new people and families in who had not experienced the events as residents of Newtown or members of Christ the King.

We learned that traumatic events have a very long tail... that emotions can be triggered by similar events, by the decisions of those prominent in the lens of those events, by anniversaries, by absolutely unexpected occasions.

We learned that not everyone is kind or empathetic... but we learned that many, many people are. Some people recoil in the face of such evil, seeking any way to avoid its reality. Some may even try to profit from it. But far more will offer to do anything they can to assist.

We learned that our present media reality is complicated... without it, the support that poured in by phone and email and mail never would have come. On the other hand, it often stoked division, mistrust, and hurt.

We learned that political aims cannot bring personal healing... people can agree on an evil without agreeing on its cause or its solution. We saw those who could best support one another instead turn on one another because they couldn't agree on the best solution in the political realm. We still see it.

But above all those things (and I am sure I could list many more): we learned that God's love in Christ is perfect and unending. We learned that He alone is our stronghold who can overcome our fears. We learned that even in the darkest moments, His light continues to shine and guide. We learned that we can take heart: the death of God's own son has brought an end to death's victory and the sting of the grave. We who are joined with Christ in a death like his shall most certainly be raised with him in a resurrection like his.

To all the members and families who were here through all the events of the last 10 years: thank you for your faith, love, and hope, and may God continue to strengthen you in the light of his faith.

To all who were not in our midst during those days, but who were offering prayers and care from afar: thank you for your support and the sensitivity you have always shown towards those more directly affected by 12/14, and may God continue to use you as a means of His support and care.

During this Advent season, we learn once again, as Jesus said in John 1:5: "the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it."

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rob Morris

Michael Slusser

Beautifully done, Pr. Morris.

Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian



Charles Austin

Thank you, Pastor Morris. It is a blessing for your community, I am sure, that you are still there ministering to the people.
Iowa-born. Long-time in NY/New Jersey, former LWF staff in Geneva.
ELCA PASTOR, ordained 1967. Former journalist. Retired in Minneapolis. Often critical of the ELCA, but more often a defender of its mission. Ignoring the not-so-subtle rude insults which often appear here.

Dave Benke

Thanks so much for sharing this message, Rob!

Dave Benke
It's OK to Pray


Dan Fienen

Pr. Daniel Fienen

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