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On Day of Lamentation Bishop Ely Says, ‘Enough Is Enough’ in Response to Gun Violence of All Kinds

On Day of Lamentation Vermont’s Episcopal Bishop Says, ‘Enough Is Enough’ in Response to Gun Violence of All Kinds

BURLINGTON, VT—The following is a statement given today by the Right Reverend Thomas C. Ely, Episcopal bishop of Vermont, at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul as part of the Day of Lamentation, a day-long event being held to reflect on and protest gun violence of all kinds:

Day of Lamentation in Response to Gun Violence – March 14, 2018
Opening Reflection: The Right Reverend Thomas C. Ely, Bishop of Vermont

We are gathering throughout the day here at this Cathedral Church and at Cathedrals and Episcopal Churches around the country for a Day of Lamentation in response to gun violence. Today is, of course, one month since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which has become a catalyst for new and renewed efforts to address gun violence in our society, and to call for effective gun safety legislation.

The word Lamentation means the passionate expression of grief or sorrow, most often with weeping – literal weeping of tears, or with the tears of our hearts. In the Bible, Lamentation refers to a prayer for help coming out of pain. It comes from a place deep within and is generally a communal expression. Prayers and expressions of Lamentation are woven throughout the Bible, in particular the Psalms, where over one third contain some expression of lament; the Book of Job; and in the voices of the prophets. The Book of Lamentations is a collection of poetic laments for the destruction of Jerusalem, generally attributed to the prophet Jerimiah. As one writer described it, “when we hurt physically, we cry out in pain; when we hurt religiously, we cry out in lament.’’[1]

In calling for this Day of Lamentation, the network of Episcopal Bishops known as Bishops United Against Gun Violence were feeling the pain of repeated and continued acts of gun violence across our land and wanted to give expression to the grief and sorrow we, and so many in our country are experiencing. We chose this day because the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and youth from around the country who have joined with them, have raised the bar of consciousness about gun violence to a level that has caught the attention of many, if not most people.

They, of course, are not the first to raise their voices in protest and lament. Black and brown skin Americans have been raising their voices for a very long time about gun violence. After every mass shooting, more and more voices are raised. Victims of domestic violence and police violence have raised their voices many times over. Those who have lost a friend or loved one to suicide or murder involving guns have also raised their voices over and over. Part of our lament this day may be that it has taken us so long to hear these voices, their lament, and their calls for action in the wake of such violence.

For me, a good portion of the personal lament I experience about gun violence comes from the images of senseless deaths, not just of children, but of innocent bodies lying dead or wounded, victims of another’s violent act. I recall feeling that most acutely on my birthday, December 14, 2012, when I heard the news about the mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, a place I was very familiar with from my years serving as a priest in Connecticut. I immediately phoned my colleague Bishop Jim Curry in Connecticut and reached him while he and Bishop Ian Douglas were driving to Newtown. We shared our lament then, and since. It all felt, and continues to feel, too very personal.

I also connect my lament this day to my years of work in Connecticut around youth suicide prevention, where on far too many occasions I listened to parents who were grieving the senseless death of a child from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. As a parent, I felt their pain ever so deeply, which served to make the work even more urgent. Working with teenagers in this area, I have no idea how many lives might have been saved by our work, but I know some were because they told me so.

Today, my lament only increases at the news of every incident of gun violence and so I prepared some statistics for you to ponder during this Day of Lamentation.[2] They are on the table in the rear of the church.

Among those statistics are these:

For ages 0-19:

Every day in America, 46 children and teens are shot in murders, assaults, suicides & suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, and police intervention.

Every day in America, 7 children and teens die from gun violence:

  • 4 are murdered
  • 3 die from suicide

Every day in America, 40 children and teens are shot and survive:

  • 31 injured in an attack
  • 1 survives a suicide attempt
  • 8 shot unintentionally

For all ages

Every day, 318 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides & suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, and police intervention.

Every day, 96 people die from gun violence in America:

  • 34 are murdered
  • 59 die from suicide
  • 1 killed unintentionally
  • 1 killed by legal intervention
  • 1 died but was intent unknown

Every day in America, 222 people are shot and survive:

  • 164 injured in an attack
  • 10 survive a suicide attempt
  • 45 shot unintentionally
  • 3 are shot in a legal intervention

Every day this is the reality in America! I hope we are not numb to statistics like these. We hear them a lot, but every statistic carries with it the name of someone who was loved by someone. The Florida parents who sent their kids to school on February 14th had no doubt heard statistics before. The same is no doubt true of the adults who were killed and their families. And yet, because of that fateful day and the violent action of Nikolas Cruz, they, their children and families are now tragically among America’s gun violence statistics. Perhaps some of you are as close to those statistics as they are and if you feel the need to talk, I will be available throughout the day.

Today, those parents and family members are rightly raising their voices of lament, along with those who survived that shooting and many, many more who are saying “enough is enough.” I am saying, enough is enough!

Throughout this Day of Lamentation, people will come and go; prayers and reflections will be offered every hour on the hour; a quiet space to think and pray will be maintained. During the 10 AM segment, the tower bells will ring seventeen times in remembrance of the seventeen who lost their lives one month ago today at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. At that time, we will remember them by name.

Alyssa Alhadeff (14),
Scott Beigel (35),
Martin Duque Anguiano (14),
Nicholas Dworet (17),
Aaron Feis (37),
Jamie Guttenberg (14),
Chris Hixon (49),
Luke Hoyer (15),
Cara Loughran (14),
Gina Montalto (14),
Joaquin Oliver (17),
Alaina Petty (14),
Meadow Pollack (18),
Helena Ramsay (17),
Alex Schachter (14),
Carmen Schentrup (16).

Now, in the silence that follows, I invite you to pray for ALL victims of gun violence and for the courage to demand and work for changes in the face of this crisis.

The Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely
Tenth Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Vermont

[1] Michael D. Guinan, OFM, is a professor of Old Testament, Semitic languages and biblical spirituality at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, California.



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