From the Rector: On Being Community

By now most of you are aware of the tragic deaths this past weekend of two students at Skyline High School. The deaths were due to accidental drug overdoses of fentanyl, an opioid that has caused thousands of death in our country. It’s almost instinctive to immediately react to such news with disbelief, shock, anger, and deep sadness, and often we look for someone or something to blame. But as the shock wears off and we are able to sift through emotions, it is possible to gain clarity. We have a problem in our community that will only be addressed when we admit there is a problem and come together to address it. To use “churchy” language, it’s confession and repentance. For many of us those two words carry a negative connotation, but the reality is that both are gifts given to us so that we can identify those things holding us back from the fullness of life Jesus promised and begin to make choices that are life-giving. This work, however, cannot be done alone. Do you notice that in our church we begin the confession with “we”: WE confess that WE have sinned. The hard but life-giving work of facing a problem and dealing with it is not done in isolation; we do it together as Beloved Community in a variety of ways.

Over the past few days, I’ve watched our community come together to mourn, pray, and support one another, especially our students. I think we’ve been shaken, too, by these deaths and am hopeful that there is a willingness to look the problem in the eye, name it, and work to address it. Many have asked me “what can I (we) do?” Together, and with God’s help and our commitment to address a very real problem in our community, we can take action that will make a difference. You will be hearing more about how our city leaders, school officials, law enforcement agencies, and faith groups are responding in the coming days. In the meantime, I offer the following of things all of us can do right now:

  • Pray. Pray for our students, parents, teachers, school officials, and community leaders. Pray for the students who have died, for their families and friends, and for those who seek to comfort and support them. Pray for those who struggle with addiction. The Book of Common Prayer offers us this prayer for pray for the victims of addiction:
    “O Blessed Lord, you ministered to all who came to you: Look with compassion upon all who through addiction have lost their health and freedom. Restore to them the assurance of your unfailing mercy; remove from them the fears that beset them; strengthen them in the work of their recovery; and to those who care for them, give patient understanding and persevering love. Amen.”
  • See. Acknowledge and get to know the children and youth in our parish. Let them know that they are visible, that we see them, welcome them, and support them. Just a simple “hello” or “that’s a pretty dress” or “what grade are you in” speaks volumes and will make a difference in the lives of our youth. I daresay most of us who are older can point to moments and persons in our lives who just simply acknowledged us or encouraged us in some way that made a huge impact. Do it this Sunday; let our youth and children know that they are an important part of our community.
  • Get informed. Know what’s going on our community, in our schools. It effects all of us. Did you know that two of our parishioners, Joyce Bottenberg and Tom Ehlers, serve on the City of Sammamish’s Health and Human Services Commission? Talk with them; they have their ears to the ground and can help gain a wider and deeper perspective on the issues.
  • Show up. On Wednesday, October 16, at 7 pm, a community-wide discussion will take place at Skyline High School. All are welcome, and I encourage your attendance. Just showing up makes a statement that we care and want to be a part of the solution.
  • Stay tuned. Our Faith in Action Commission is working with other faith leaders and the Sammamish YMCA to start a mentoring program for youth. Tom Ehlers and I have been part of this initiative. You’ll be hearing more about this in the coming months, and if you’d like to be a part of exploratory group, please speak to Tom or me.

Wherever you are or whatever you are doing when you read this, please join me in this prayer:

Gracious God, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance for a new start. Give them strength to hold their faith in your, and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (BCP, p. 829).

Hopefully,

—Fr. Steve+