May 25, 2022
What happened in Buffalo a week ago Saturday is not an anomaly. Nor is what happened in Laguna Woods and Uvalde in the days following. This who we are.
The shooting of 13 people shopping for food at a supermarket, 10 of whom have died and 11 of whom were Black, was an overtly racist act. It was perpetrated by an avowed white supremacist, livestreamed by him on the internet, at a Tops food market in a predominantly black neighborhood that is a three-and-a-half-hour drive from his home. The murder of one communicant and the critical injury of four others at an Orange County church was another well-planned execution, apparently politically motivated around issues of Taiwanese independence. That shooter traveled almost 300 miles from another state and mingled with churchgoers for 40 minutes before opening fire. And the slaughter of 19 elementary schoolchildren and two adults in Uvalde by an 18-year-old student from a nearby school was an act of such horrific violence against the most innocent of victims that it all but defies contemplation.
All of these were premediated acts of gun violence. Some will argue that each was the action of a deranged individual, which it surely was, and thereby distance themselves from it as aberrant and not reflective of who we are as a country and society, which it just as surely was not. These were three of more than 200 mass shootings in the United States so far this year. We are the most heavily armed and personally weaponized country on earth. It is not simply that the alleged killers should not have had these guns. It is not just about the shooters. We live in a society that makes it possible for them and most citizens to have guns without training, permit, or good reason. This is who we are.
Nor is it simply that these were perpetrated with racist motives or values that do not reflect the morals and ethics enshrined in our Constitution and taught by all but extremist religious traditions. Throughout our history as a nation, we have made room for slavery, prejudice, inequality, inequity, hate, and, thereby, the continued expression of racism and the battle for supremacy of one demographic over another. Even in our religious communities is this so. This reality persists, and we, the people of this country, allow it to do so. This, too, is who we are.
For some, defining ourselves and our country as racist and violent is anathema. Of course, this is not what most of us want to accept about our identity. We cannot help but recoil from it. But such hateful and violent acts are shameful not only for the perpetrators, but for all of us who pledge to support a safe, supportive society wherein self-sacrifice and surrender of privilege assure the rights of others to go safely to school, church, and the market. We promise equality and justice for all, yet refuse to enact laws that provide them. We likely should be more ashamed of not owning our truth and not helping one another to repair the breach. We are quick to claim national pride when something good happens. We must be equally quick to take national responsibility when something shameful does.
As Jesus repeatedly showed, both in his words and his actions, love must be taught. That teaching begins in naming and owning where we have fallen short. It is a matter of confession, accepting what God knows about us. God knows that we fall short and, with God’s help, can do better. We should be indefatigable in giving our schoolchildren something more than successful Active Shooter Drills to be proud of. The violence and racism of our society are not their fault. Its repair, however, is their opportunity. An honest acceptance of where and who we are provides the only stable place from which they, and we, can proceed.
I don’t like the fact that I belong to a violent and racist society. It is a hard truth for me to accept. But time and again, we find that, without confession, without accepting the truth, we have nowhere to go because we are not starting where we are. Very often it is the realities we are most reluctant to face that provide the place where change begins. These are truths we need to own. Owning them informs our prayer, and prayer informs our action.
I encourage you, in both your personal devotions and corporate worship, to pray the Litany in the Wake of a Mass Shooting, maintained and offered by Bishops United Against Gun Violence, of which the Bishops of Ohio are members. And I invite clergy to wear orange stoles at the ordinations on Saturday and on subsequent Sundays.
God knows, we can change this if we are willing to do the work. God surely does.
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr.
Bishop of Ohio
April 11, 2022
Office of Public Affairs
“Easter is the celebration of the victory of God,” Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry said in his Easter 2022 message. “The earth, like an egg, has been cracked open, and Jesus has been raised alive and new, and love is victorious.”
The festive day of Easter is Sunday, April 17.
View the video HERE.
The following is the text of the Presiding Bishop’s Easter 2022 Message:
In Matthew’s gospel, the resurrection of Jesus is introduced this way: “After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord had descended from heaven, came and rolled back the stone before the tomb until it was open.”
A number of years ago, when I was serving as the bishop of North Carolina, one of our clergy, the Rev. James Melnyk, offered a workshop on the Saturday before Palm Sunday on how to design, and color, and make Easter eggs.
I attended the workshop with a number of other people from around the Raleigh area and did my best to make an Easter egg. But Jim was a master at doing so. You see, Jim’s family hailed from Ukraine, and he had been making those Easter eggs from childhood, and spoke of his grandmother and the family tradition that hailed from Ukraine, the making of those Easter eggs. I knew the significance of the Easter egg and Easter. I knew the stories and the truth and the teachings about the coming of new life into the world, and the connection of life emerging from an egg, and Jesus rising from the dead, bringing new life and hope into our world.
But it became clear to me, in the last month or so, in this time when the people of the Ukraine are struggling for their freedom, struggling to be what God intends for all people to be, free people, that, that egg, which is deeply embedded in the life and the consciousness of the people of Ukraine, that those Easter eggs are not just mere symbols, but reminders of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. Think back. On Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem, as we know, riding on a donkey. That was a deliberate act on his part.
He entered Jerusalem at about same time that Pontius Pilate, the governor of Rome, would’ve been entering the city from the other side, from the other gate. Pilate would’ve been riding a war horse, accompanied by a cavalry and infantry. He would’ve been riding in the streets of Jerusalem at this, the dawn of the Passover, which was a celebration of Jewish freedom. Harking back to the days of Moses and the Exodus, Pilate knew that the people would remember that God decreed freedom for all people, and that the Roman empire, which held Judea as a colony, would need to put down, by brute force, any attempt to strike a blow for their freedom.
So, Pilate entered Jerusalem on a war horse, and Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. The way of humility, the way of the love that we know from the God who is love, the way of truth, the way of compassion, the way of justice, the way of God, the way of love. That way faced the way of the world, brute force, totalitarian power, injustice, bigotry, violence, embodied in Pontius Pilate, governor of Rome. And the rest of the week was a conflict between the way of the empire and the way of the kingdom or the reign of God’s love.
On Friday, the empire struck. Jesus was executed on the orders of the governor of Rome. He was killed, and hope seemed to die with him. His followers fled, save those few women who stood by the cross, and save old Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who provided a tomb for the body of Jesus. The Scripture says they placed his body in the tomb and rolled the stone in front of the tomb. And there he lay dead, lifeless. There their hopes dashed on the altars of reality, their truth was crushed to earth. Their love itself seemed to die.
Then early Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, and at least one other, and maybe a few other women, went to the tomb to anoint his body, to do the rites of burial that were customary. But when they got there, they realized that there had been an earthquake, that the earth, if you will, had been cracked open, and that the tomb was empty. The tomb was open and empty. The earth had been cracked open, and they would soon discover that Jesus had been raised from the dead. The earth cracking open, the tomb opening like an egg cracked open, and new life emerging from it.
That is the victory of life. That is the victory of love. That is the victory of God. The resurrection of Jesus is the victory that we can believe in and live by.
Many years before South Africa ever saw its new day of freedom, I heard Desmond Tutu in Columbus, Ohio. This was in the mid-1980s. This was while Nelson Mandela was still in prison, while there was no hope of deliverance. I heard him say in his speech that I believe that one day my beloved South Africa will be free for all of her children, Black, white, colored, Asian, Indian, all of her children.
I believe it, because I believe that God has a dream for South Africa, and nothing can stop God’s dream. And I believe that because I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, and nothing can stop God. Easter is the celebration of the victory of God. The earth, like an egg, has been cracked open, and Jesus has been raised alive and new, and love is victorious.
In the year 2020, in that first Easter during the pandemic, when our church buildings were closed, we broadcast an Easter service from the National Cathedral, and members of our communication team organized for, what may have been the first time in our church’s history, organized an online choir.
And they sang an ancient Easter hymn. And they will sing it for you now. It sings of this victory, this victory of love of God. The strife is o’er, the battle done. The victory of life is won. The sound of triumph has begun. Alleluia, alleluia. The victory is won. Our task is to live in that victory, to live out that love until the prayer that Jesus taught us, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And so this Easter, behold, the Ukrainian Easter egg, for the victory of love and life is one.
(Virtual choir sings)
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
The strife is o’er, the battle done,
the victory of life is won;
the song of triumph has begun.
The powers of death have done their worst,
but Christ their legions has dispersed:
let shout of holy joy outburst.
The three sad days are quickly sped,
he rises glorious from the dead:
all glory to our risen Head!
He closed the yawning gates of hell,
the bars from heaven’s high portals fell;
let hymns of praise his triumph tell!
Lord! by the stripes which wounded thee,
from death’s dread sting thy servants free,
that we may live and sing to thee.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!