North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

January 17, 2013

Our Views: In times of tragedy, words of comfort: "Peace, be still"

North Jefferson News

AN NJN EDITORIAL — Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett has not been in charge of the United Methodist Church’s North Alabama Conference for very long. But she has already been presented with the daunting task of comforting the flock of a church hit with two crises in a matter of weeks — charges that a worship leader traveled to have improper relations with a child, and then a horrific shooting Thursday that left the senior pastor’s wife dead, his daughter wounded and the pastor himself charged with both crimes.

It was, therefore, an appropriate choice that Wallace-Padgett took her words for Sunday morning’s services at Gardendale-Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church from the fourth chapter of the gospel of Mark. The passage tells of how Jesus was crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat, when a storm tossed the boat wildly. Jesus spoke to the storm, “Peace, be still,” and the waves subsided.

The bishop reminded parishioners that no matter what storms they are going through, Jesus is in the boat with them.

And for that matter, so is the rest of our community. Many of us who have no direct connection with Gardendale-Mt. Vernon are still feeling the effects of Thursday’s events, the sort of tragedy we are thankfully unaccustomed to in our area. But it’s our neighbors who are hurting, and we need to be there for them.

We may never know what led to the acts that took place in that church parsonage. The Greer family had not been in Gardendale long — such is the life of a Methodist minister, where regular reassignments are a tradition. They had yet to fully plant roots here.

But the thought of a clergyman, whose job it is to preach God’s Word, breaking that Word in such a ghastly way is beyond the comprehension of most people. It is a stark reminder that, despite their higher calling, ministers are still people and sometimes subject to the same human frailties as the rest of us.

We pray for healing for the congregation of Gardendale-Mt. Vernon, and our community as a whole. Sadly, this tragedy is still unfolding, and we will all endure its effects for weeks and months to come.