Tribute - Monday Musing, June 20, 2022
Tribute – an act, statement, or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect, or admiration. Last Wednesday, our Nan Cook Meetinghouse Preschool held their annual graduation in the church labyrinth. It has been a delight interacting with the kids this past school year. I would stop in to the preschool from time-to-time, see the kids playing in the playground as I was coming or going, and I had the opportunity to read them a story this year. I secretly glow whenever I hear the kids hollering, “Hi Pastor Darren!” It’s no wonder Maureen Vigneau and Susan Kiklis love their jobs, the kids bring such joy!
So prior to the graduation, it occurred to me that nineteen students and two teachers from the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX will not experience a graduation this year, or ever. The sad reality of our times – we experience such joy, while others are devastated by senseless death. I wanted to honor and pay tribute to these lost angels on the day our five kids graduated. And so, we created a “classroom” of empty chairs on the church lawn. Maureen let us borrow nineteen kid chairs, and we took two adult chairs from the vestry to make our tribute. Susan created bows from our Pentecost decorations, and on each ribbon is printed the name of the student/teacher who died. The ribbons were attached to the empty chairs, which were arranged on the front lawn as a tribute to Uvalde. The dichotomy of the day was apparent – joy expressed behind the church, while at the same time grief and despair on full display in the front of the church.
Our tribute was a silent witness, expressing support for those who grieve the death of a child, in this case showing respect for those who died in Uvalde. The community reaction has been heartfelt. Calls, emails, social media posts, and visits to the church office have all expressed appreciation for our tribute. One man wrote, “Your memorial display for Uvalde brought tears to my eyes. Each empty chair for a senselessly murdered person, each chair someone’s child and two for their teachers. Deeply powerful. I’m not a weepy person but tears just leaked down the sides of my cheeks. Thank you for reminding everyone that we must never forget.”
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs” (Matt 19:14). The Uvalde mass shooting is a grim reminder that in the U.S., where civilians own nearly 400 million firearms, children are more likely to die from gun violence than in any other wealthy country. Uvalde was the 27th school shooting in the country this year. According to the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, the root causes of gun violence include: income inequality; poverty; underfunded public housing; under-resourced public services; underperforming schools; lack of opportunity and perceptions of hopelessness; and easy access to firearms by high-risk people.
As a community of faith, we can play a significant role in efforts to reduce gun violence, including advocating for commonsense gun reform, promoting violence interruption programs, encouraging education, providing counseling, and more. This work may be considered “political” by some, but driven by both a sense of ethical obligation and concern for the safety of “our neighbor,” we are simply acting on our faith. The Church Cabinet has organized a letter-writing campaign, and they seek your active participation (sample letters can be found on the table in the vestry).
May our Uvalde tribute empower us to become holy troublemakers as we work to “beat swords into plowshares” (Isa 2:4). See you in church!