Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
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Rector's statement on the massacre in Orlando


Dear Members and Friends of Immanuel:
It has been quite a week in our country, and around the world. Once again, we have seen the depth of our potential depravity as human beings, the ways in which we can be so hurtful of one another. The mass shooting in a gay bar in Orlando brings into focus so many of the issues with which our society has been dealing, all at one time and in one place: fears of terrorism, issues around gun rights and gun control, the rights and place of gay and lesbian people in our society, and the rights and place of Muslim members of our society. What does the Church do?
It strikes me that Immanuel, somewhat uniquely, has been addressing some of these polarizing issues for some time. Not only do we have valued and integrally involved members of the parish who are lesbian, gay, and transgender, Immanuel hosts a congregation of LGBT Roman Catholics AND a Muslim congregation. These different strands all gather and meet here. It also strikes me that we may be called now to engage in deeper fellowship and conversation with both of those groups, who meet under the same roof.
It seems to me that the beginning point for the Church, theologically, is our bedrock belief that ALL are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). We differ, yes, even reflecting marvelous diversity, but all have an equal claim on our respect as human beings. We affirm this in our Baptismal Covenant when, at every Baptism and Confirmation, we answer the question: "Will you respect the dignity of every human being?" We respond: "We will, with God's help."
We are called to witness to a different way of being in the world, to draw upon St. Paul's image, "a still more excellent way" (1 Corinthians 12:31). It is a way that believes that God first loves the world (John 3:16) and then became one of us in the life, ministry, teaching, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and a way that teaches us to love all others of God's children, whether they be of our tribe, or not. We are also called to extend this care to the most vulnerable, "the least among us" (Matthew 25:40), remembering that in doing so we are honoring Our Lord. I see evidence all of the time of loving, hard-working, good people at Immanuel who labor to make both our corner of this world, and the larger world, a better place, a more Godly place.
We are now called, I believe, to pray around all sides of this tragedy: for all those who died or were injured in Orlando, and for their families; for the members of the Gay and Lesbian community who have suffered so much; for the members of the Islamic community; for those who fight terrorism and the hateful and extremist radical Islamist fringe, who, make no mistake about it, view Christians as one of their prime targets. We are called to pray for our legislators and government officials as they labor over very complicated issues related to guns, their accessibility and their role in our society. We are even called, following Our Lord's direct command, to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). As hard as this may be, and as much as it goes against our nature, we are even called to pray for the shooter. Christianity, after all, regularly calls us to move beyond our nature.
We in this parish are by no means perfect, Lord knows. But I believe, at our better moments, one can see glimpses of the Kingdom of God among us, glimpses of our Lord's dream for us and for all of His children. May that dream mark our life together, and may we influence the thousands of people, collectively, with whom we in this parish are in relationship, towards that "more excellent way."
God bless you all,
The Rev. J. Randolph Alexander, Jr.
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. The Book of Common Prayer, p. 815.

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