Healing is the primary work of people of faith and the communities of which they are a part. Christians, as disciples of One who came to save (rescue, heal, make whole) the world and its inhabitants, seek to heal their relationships with one another and with all that is.
Episcopalians believe this is God’s mission and we are its ministers or servants. We are meant to seek to repair what is breached and broken, to stitch up what is torn, to heal what is sick, to release what is imprisoned and oppressed, to comfort the dying, to encourage the ignored, forlorn, and grieving. Our life finds meaning in responding to the cries around us and within us, as individuals in community. We follow One who was himself vilified, tortured, and finally executed for proclaiming the possibility of reconciled relationships in communities divided by poverty, violence, and religion.
The tragic death of Thomas Palermo challenges us all to attend to the work of healing. We cannot restore what is past, but we can seek reconciliation and wholeness for all who have been affected – the Palermo family, Heather Cook, the biking community and others in Baltimore, the Diocese of Maryland, bystanders and onlookers who have witnessed any of these traumatic events.
We begin in prayer – lament and wailing at loss and at human frailty. We continue in prayer – for succor and comfort, for compassion, for transformation and healing. Episcopalians worship a God who came among us in fragile human flesh and suffered pain and death at the hands of other human beings. We understand his resurrection to mean that death does not have the final word – and that healing and wholeness transcend the grave. That healing is never quick or easy, it does not “fix” what has already happened, but it does begin to let hope grow again.
Our task is that hard work of healing. It requires vulnerability to the pain of all involved – victims, transgressors, onlookers, friends and families and coworkers and emergency responders and community members. A violent death often divides communities, yet ultimately healing requires us all to lower our defenses enough to let others minister to us, to hear another’s pain and grief, to share our own devastation, and indeed to look for the possibility of a new and different future. Healing also comes through a sense of restored order, which is the role of processes of accountability.
Healing requires hope for a redeemed future for the Palermo family as well as Heather Cook. Many have been changed by this death, yet their lives are not ended. They can be healed and transformed, even though the path be long and hard. Our work is to walk that path in solidarity with all who grieve and mourn. May we pray with the psalmist, “Yea, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me.” May we also be that companioning presence, the image of God in the flesh, for those who walk through that valley.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church