Our hearts go out to the friends, families, and members of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The murders of the pastor and eight other church members of this historic church, during a time of prayer, shock the sensibilities and are a source of anguish to every civilized person.
That a person would enter the church and, apparently after being in the meeting for an hour and listening to the teaching of the Gospel, would then unleash this diabolical horror on innocent Christian men and women is or should be unthinkable in this age and in this country.
That a young man deceived by the erroneous and arrogant proclamation of “white supremacy” would visit violence and mayhem upon innocent worshipers of African American heritage is a sobering and grim reminder that not all people embrace the biblical teaching that, in God, there is “neither Jew nor Greek…male nor female.” Neither, in the Christian faith, is there any distinction between white or black, brown or yellow, or any other color or shade of skin color. Even the children in church have learned that:
“Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red, brown, yellow
Black and white
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children
Of the world.”
We, the clergy and laity of the Diocese of the Mid-South (Tennessee and Georgia) deplore this horrific criminal and racist act and stand with our brothers and sisters of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and with all people, regardless of denomination or race, who are victims of senseless and cowardly acts of violence.
Our prayers are with all who have suffered and pray for God’s peace, comfort, and grace for the people of “Mother Emanuel.”
The Most Reverend W. David Epps, Bishop
The Diocese of the Mid-South
The International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church
“Do you ever get over it? Does the pain ever go away?’ The question was asked recently by a person who had lost a loved one. Friends had told her, “You’ll get over it,” or “The pain will go away,” and “This will get easier with time.” Well, yes and no.
My father died almost nineteen years ago. For nineteen years, I have walked past the greeting card display in the supermarket and have not stopped to buy a Father’s Day card. The other day, I stood at the card display and glanced over the cards at a distance. I didn’t pick up any of them and read them. What’s the point? My father is gone and all these years later I still miss him.
Do you get over it? No, not really—not if the relationship was strong and love held it together. What you do is adapt. You learn to live in the New Reality that someone you cared deeply for is no longer here. For example, I do not buy Father’s Day cards for my dad. What does happen, however, is that I think about him, especially during the week leading up to Father’s Day which, this year, also happens to fall on his birthday. He would have been 88 years old this Sunday if cancer hadn’t taken his life in September 1996 at the age of 69. No cards, no birthday cake, no gifts. Is there a hole there? Yes, there still is, so I fill it with memories about the man who was my father.
Does the pain ever go away? Well, yes, if one means the pain that occurs following a death. That searing, intense, blinding pain that makes us wonder if we will ever be well again—that goes away. But the sense of loss remains. When my dad retired, he took up painting—oil painting to be precise. Although he was an electrician by trade and training, he always had an artistic bent. So, he took a class in painting. He painted landscapes mostly.
For the better part of a year, he knew he was losing his battle. So he retreated to the basement and painted. He locked the door and requested privacy during these times. Later, after the funeral, we dared to venture into the basement and found the paintings. Dad had names attached to them by post-it notes. He left something of himself in these paintings that he designated for family members. Whenever I see my painting, I feel both gratitude and sadness. But does all the pain go away? No, I think not. But it changes. I miss him but when I think of him I mostly smile and remember.
Dad was also good with tools. He could do about anything, actually. In addition to electrical work, he could run pipe, lay block and brick, install carpet, put in a drop ceiling, paint the house, build a patio, do concrete work, add a couple of rooms on to our small house, put up fencing, install new shingles—he could even do taxidermy and repair firearms. When I need to feel especially close to him, I go into the garage and hold his hammer. Somehow, this makes a connection. The shaft is worn smooth by decades of use and his initial, “E” is carved on the handle. Holding his hammer in my hand brings a flood of memories.
So, this year, as in all the last years since 1996, I won’t buy a Father’s Day card—or a birthday card. I’ll look at his photograph, maybe touch the painting, and go hold his hammer. I have adapted and have moved on. It does get easier with time. But have I gotten over it? He was my dad. How do you ever really get over losing someone you love?
David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Christina Handley recently received her black belt in Tae Kwon Do. She is the daughter of Dan and Michelle Handley and the granddaughter of Tuffy and Nancy Handley, all of whom are members of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA.