To All The Saints Of God,
My heart is broken now as I begin to write yet again what I and other pastors across the land have had to write far, far, far, too many times over the years. How does one express words when there are no words to express the sentiment the words call for?
You all know of the bombings in Boston on Monday. Words cannot adequately express our sorrow, sympathies and anguish for this wonderful city and its people. This tragedy has a personal edge now and may have more to come in the days to come:
I would ask that you please be in prayer for a family and a former congregation member of ours. This lady was the college roommate of Denise Richard. Denise was at the scene with the explosions at the Boston Marathon. So were her husband and children. What follows is tragic. Her son, Martin, 8 years old, you are beginning to see his picture on television now was killed just after hugging his father at the finish line. He was instantly killed when the first explosion occurred. His sister, Jane, lost a leg in the same explosion. The mother, Denise, is in serious condition with brain injuries. Please keep both of these families in your deepest prayers during this most tragic time. There may be more associations for Faye and me in this tragedy, friends in Mass are checking now for us, and we are receiving some emails letting us know some runners are okay. I have a classmate in Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary who runs in marathons all over the land. I am checking with her. Pray. Please.
I mention these families not because I think they are more important than any of the other victims, but to emphasize how an act of terrorism in the United States affects each and every one of us. An act 2,000 miles away, yet it is as close as a relative, friend, acquaintance, or human being of any race, religion, or nationality; and our safe, secure existence is changed forever.
Let us also be in prayer for Boston, the families of Krystle Campbell and Lingzi Lu who lost their lives, the victims and all connected with this horrible, senseless tragedy. During our time in Mass, Faye and I came to love Boston very much. We still miss it. Today, I feel like I should be in Boston. I have felt this way since Monday when Faye called me with the sad news of the attack. I feel that is my place. I wish I could be in Boston. For a little over six years I was honored to serve a Church less than an hour from Boylston Street. I know those streets of Boylston and Newberry well. They are the very heart of Downtown Boston. Faye and I and Michael and Meredith have walked them many times and driven them more. Boston is a special part of us and always will be. We have many, many friends within the Presbytery of Boston (25 churches) throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We feel their anguish, we feel their pain, and we feel their sorrow. We stand in solidarity with Bostonians, past, present, and future. Boston lives!
Again, as we always see at the time of tragedy the Boston Police Department, the Boston Fire Department and the First Responders of EMS were present and performed their duties with skill, bravery, and precision beyond words. Again, no words for their heroism are adequate. And again, as we see so often when tragedy occurs, so many people from every walk of life, responded to the situation at hand. Strangers became helpers, strangers got in the way of danger as they ran toward the explosions, rather than away from them, people who did not know each other stood for and with those injured and gave their assistance and their comfort. The pictures coming out of Boston are remarkable in their clarity and in their portrayal of the situation as they capture both the results of humanity at its worst as well as the results of humanity at its best. I know you have seen many of these pictures including the one with the woman with her hands clasped in prayer looking skyward. Churches in the area opened their doors immediately. Within a block or so of the explosion there stands a Presbyterian Church that was recently granted National Historical Register status as one of the oldest Presbyterian Churches in the U.S. Again, we saw people helping people, people standing with and for people, people giving their assistance to those in need. This is Biblical. This is what we humans are supposed to do when such a tragedy strikes. We are with people, for people, and to people. There is no black or white, red or yellow, Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, rich or poor, Red Sox fan, Rockies fan or Yankee fan, Colorado or Massachusetts, there is nothing except humanity at its very best. Though God cried with so many of us on Monday, I am sure God was pleased with the professional response of the authorities as well as the people on the street. I have no doubt that it was the helping, assisting, sustaining hand of God and the presence of God in the midst of a man-made hell that assisted the many emergency personnel and people on the street and gave them strength, courage, peace, and perseverance in the midst of horror. God was on Boylston Street, and God remains in the hospitals of Mass General, Brigham and Women’s, Dana Farber, Boston Children’s and Beth Israel, all close to the scene of the tragedy.
One cannot know how personal this attack was unless one has an association with Boston. The third Monday of each year is Patriot’s Day in The Commonwealth. It marks the stand of the Minuteman at the Old North Bridge in Concord with “the shot heard around the world” as the Minutemen from Concord and Lexington faced British soldiers in one of the opening volleys of what would come to be known either as The Revolutionary War, or the War for American Independence or, in England, as “The Presbyterian War”, since we Presbyterians were so heavily involved in starting the War. Patriot’s Day is also celebrated each year with a morning baseball game at Fenway Park with the Red Sox. It is the end of the winter season and the beginning of spring and summer. There is a festive atmosphere everywhere not only in Boston but throughout the Commonwealth. This attack, occurring on Patriot’s Day, a holiday in Mass and other States in New England can only be regarded as personal by those who live there (and who used to live there). It is a Holiday, with everything closed, schools and all else and where are the people? On the streets. In the stands. Out with each other. The Boston Marathon. Re-enactments of “the shot heard around the world.” Walking down the streets with Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and British soldiers. Parades. A day of joy turned suddenly to horror. Why? One asks over and over again, “Why”, as one stares into the darkness and sees the light of God emerging from the darkness with the light of presence, of comfort, of healing, and of being there with people in the midst of their suffering. That is our God, that is the God we love, that is God we serve, that is the God we proudly show forth the glory of to the best of our human ability. Thank God for God!
Boston and its people are strong, Boston and its people are brave, Boston and its people are resilient, and Boston and its people will not come apart, rather it will and has come together. Boston cries and Boston will heal and Boston will not be conquered by fear and hate. Love and service to each other will and shall prevail on the streets of Boston. The official license plate for Massachusetts says, “The Spirit of America.” That is true, and that Spirit of America is what we are seeing, will see, and shall continue to see in the streets of Boston. And, through the tears and the broken hearts and shattered dreams of a City and its people, Boston and its people will stand tall and proud and God will smile on what so many of us affectionately call “Bean Town”. I would remind us all again that death and tragedy are never, never the last word. Life and life eternal are the last word. God has the last word God is with Boston and its people now and in the days to come, and God will remain with Boston and its people now and in the days to come. That is God, that is why God is God and that is why God cares and God loves and God gives comfort and presence even in the midst of tragedy.
Today, I know I speak for Faye as well when I say I have never been prouder of The City of Boston and its people and its emergency personnel than I am today. Through tears as I write this I can only pray and pray and wish I were there. Thankfully, our prayers carry well across the miles, God sees to that as well.
May God bless Boston and its people,
May God bless America
May God bless us, each and all
Peace, Courage, Blessings,
We’re All In This Together,