I am writing to you in response to the tragic events that have unfolded in Calgary over these last two weeks. It is profoundly sad that a young boy and his grandparents are believed to be murdered. The grief of the O’Brien and Liknes families is both unimaginable and heart wrenching. There have been several appeals in our city to support these folks in many ways, and I would invite you to consider donating to one of the trust accounts that have been set up as the best way to support the victims of this crime in real and tangible ways. As a community of faith, we pray for and with these families, and ask that the Holy Spirit lead them and comfort them.
These events also prove to us that there are two sides to every story. We often hear about crime or tragic events on the news, but the victims, and the accused are distant, not real. We don’t often spare a second thought about suspects or events. We are quick to rush to judgement. In this case, and as God’s people, we do not have that luxury. Archie and Doreen Garland are members of, and leaders in Airdrie United Church and their son is the accused in this case. Many of you know Archie and Doreen and like me you appreciate their warmth, their hard work, and their friendship. Words cannot express their feelings at this time nor our desire to help them through this difficult and new reality.
I have been able to speak with the Garlands and have expressed on behalf of the congregation our affection and our prayerful support.
They have asked me to communicate to you their deep appreciation, and their love for our church family. I have offered whatever pastoral support I can provide to them at this time and I have assured them that “there is church full of people waiting to hug them.” My prayer is that the Garlands will return to our worshipping community at a time when they are ready and that will be received with grace and love.
There has been much conversation about the need to end, to have closure, to move on from this tragedy, to have justice done. What people don’t seem to realize is that is not always possible. The O’Brien, Liknes, and Garland families have a sadness torn in their souls a mile wide.
Wounds like this are never healed and along with them we are called to lament. Lamentation is not the absence of God but an acknowledgement that along with us all, God weeps.
It is powerful to know that in the midst of our suffering, God is present and inviting us to take time to grow, and learn how to be gracious, how to be better, and how to move with tentative steps towards a future where we can sing Alleluias.
The time in between is often uncomfortable, there is much we don’t know. We do know this, however, the Garlands were and are our friends. We know that we are church and as such are followers of the Way of Jesus who invites us to be transformed by love. We know that we are called to be a people of prayer who speak tenderly and invite grace.
Finally, we know “We love like Christ whose name is love incarnate, and in that same love we trust God to lead us!”
May we always trust in the promises of the gospel, and lead with hope as we go about the sometimes hard work of being church for hurting people in a wounded world.
David A. Pollard,
Lead Minister Airdrie United Church