Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Shared Grief over the Shooting in Kansas City

When I heard about the shooting by the white supremacist at the Jewish Community Center in Kansas City this week, I first shook my head in disgust and mumbled that this sure is a crazy world we live in. Then, I thought about the Jewish congregation that worships across the street from where I pastor in Houston, Texas. My heart immediately began wondering what must be stirred up in my friends there. And I said some prayers.

First Christian Church and Temple Emanu El have shared a beautiful relationship since the late 50s, when our church sold its property downtown on Main and Bell, and moved to its present location across from Rice University. After the building was sold and before the new building was built, our church met in the sanctuary of Temple Emanu El. The Rabbi at the time not only opened the doors, but opened his and his congregation's lives to our congregation in transition. For many, many years the children of the Temple held one of their children's events during one of the Jewish Holy Days in our sanctuary. This only ended when they literally outgrew our space and had to find a bigger one.

Tonight, my daughter and I are attending our first Passover Seder at the Temple at the invitation of Rabbi Kahn and her husband. We're looking forward to another way to be and remain friends with our neighbors.

During my prayers this week after learning the hard news, I felt moved to do something more. So, I stopped by British Isles in the Village and bought some Cadbury chocolate bars. You just can't go wrong with good chocolate. After a little research online, I confirmed that the London Beth Din considers almost everything made by Cadbury (the British maker) to be kosher - perfect for Passover.

When I dropped them off, I was warmly received and introduced to the new interim Rabbi. As we sat in his office, I didn't know what to say exactly, about the shooting, that is. So I simply acknowledged it and that I was there in part to say, "I'm sorry." The rabbi and I both acknowledged an irony that Christians were killed in the shooting. And in the moment, I felt his solidarity with me in a mutual grief; though, oddly, we are so many miles away from Kansas City.

Mourning in Kansas City
I suppose the grief rises because we still live in a world where not only such things happen, but in a world where such states of mind, such ways of reasoning still persist that lead to such hate. I grieve that. I grieve that way of being human. I grieve that way of being Christian. And I am - at the same time - hopeful that the relationship and friendship that our two congregations share, can be a witness to another alternative.

I draw from our Scriptures these words, which are more than anything, I suppose, an earnest prayer:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
-Romans 12:2-3