After the school shooting in Parkland, FL on Ash Wednesday, the Rev. Melissa Hall and the Rev. Audrey Hasselbrook of St. James in Upper Montclair felt paralyzed on how to respond to yet another mass shooting.
“Participate in a service of a lamentation for the victims of the Parkland shooting and all victims of lethal gun violence.”
As a result, Hall and Hasselbrook devised a plan to create a T-shirt Memorial on the front lawn of the church.
As they were thinking this through, Hall received a visit from two 25-year-olds who wanted to talk to her about the Parkland shooting and the memorial. The children of active members, they themselves were only marginally connected to St. James. They both offered valuable insight and advice on how to appropriately acknowledge the tragedy of the Parkland shooting. Hall told them, "OK, you're now part of my kitchen cabinet," and they committed to being involved in future planning and discussion.
The result was a Service of Lamentation woven into the regular liturgy for the First Sunday in Lent, and a Memorial to the Lost consisting of 17 T-shirts displayed on St. James’ lawn, bearing the names and ages of the Parkland victims.
On the advice of her two young fellow planners, to personalize the memorial Hall took care to note the ages of the victims on colorful T-shirts that young people would wear. The thrift shop at St. Luke's in Montclair provided 45 youth T-shirts on short notice.
The service began in the narthex, where Hall and Hasselbrook called the names of the 17 lost in Parkland before proceeding into the Great Litany. It concluded on the lawn next to the Memorial to the Lost, where they used portions of the service for the Burial of the Dead, including the prayers for both children and adults, and the Commendation.
The Memorial will remain on St. James’ lawn through Lent. Another 25 or so T-shirts will be added representing every institution that has experienced a school shooting in 2018 – whether or not there were fatalities.
St. James is also making a condolence book available to the community, which it will send to Parkland at the end of this week.
Anyone who would like to learn more about St. James’ Service of Lamentation and Memorial to the Lost is welcome to contact the Rev. Melissa Hall at Rev.Melissa@stjamesepiscopal.org.