is a letter issued July 12 to the people of the Episcopal Diocese of
Massachusetts from Bishop Alan M. Gates regarding the violent tragedies
of the last week.
Dear people of the Diocese of Massachusetts,
weekend I made a two-day silent retreat at the Trappist Abbey in
Western Massachusetts. It came as we were all still reeling from two
more senseless deaths of black men at the hand of law enforcement
officers, and the horrific deadly assault on police officers in Dallas.
In the first hours of my time at the Abbey, I picked up Jean Vanier’s book Becoming Human, and happened upon this paragraph:
once visited a psychiatric hospital that was a kind of warehouse of
human misery. Hundreds of children with severe disabilities were lying,
neglected, on their cots. There was a deadly silence. Not one of them
was crying. When they realize that nobody cares, that nobody will
answer them, children no longer cry. It takes too much energy. We cry
out only when there is hope that someone may hear us. [NYC: Paulist
Press, 1998; p. 9]
The image is devastating. In moments of deep despair, when all hope is lost, silence ensues.
seemingly intractable cycle of violence which has taken hold of our
nation has caused our despair to grow yet deeper in the past month.
Multiple tribulations intersect in varying toxic combinations: the
violence of religious extremism; continuing vulnerability of the LGBTQ
community; deeply ingrained, systemic racism; the dual need for
accountability from and support for our police forces; and
unconscionably easy availability of deadly weapons.
might well feel weary of crying out, or become convinced that no one
will hear us. We could fall silent, like those hopeless children. But
we must not. We must not cease lamenting, not cease striving, not cease
praying, not cease reconciling, not cease demanding of ourselves an
honest self-examination, not cease demanding that those who govern on
our behalf would do so with clarity of vision and courage of
conviction. We must not cease hoping, and not give up acting as agents
of that hope.
Cross of Christ bears witness that hatred and brutality are to be met
with neither fight nor flight, but with a compassionate clarity of
purpose that demands only love, and effects only reconciliation.
The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates