For All the Saints

by | Nov 1, 2018

Blessed are those who mourn . . .
Matthew 5:4

Monday October 29 was a day of memorials.

We began at Silver Spring Presbyterian Church where we celebrated the long and fruitful life of the Rev. Dr. Clark Lobenstine, founding Executive Director of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington.

For 36 years, Clark brought together the broad interfaith religious community in this region to collaboratively advance justice, build community, and nurture understanding. At his memorial service, leaders of many faiths spoke of how Clark welcomed, encouraged, and stood by them, always. Family members told of his devotion and love; colleagues and congregants of his abiding faith. Throughout his life, Clark served Christ by loving all God’s children, and finding ways for us to work together for good.  

The Rev. Clark Lobenstine

Monday afternoon I had the sad task of presiding at the memorial service for Tom Marmet, a 22 year-old aspiring social worker killed by a stray bullet in Northeast Washington, D.C. Tom worked as a resident volunteer for the non-profit organization So Others Might Eat, at the agency’s job assistance center for recovering addicts. He had just left the center and was driving home to dinner at the home he shared with other SOME volunteers when he was fatally shot.

St. Alban’s Parish was filled to overflowing with grieving young adults and their parents, all trying to come to terms with his sudden death. Family and friends spoke of Tom’s dedication to serving others, how he was a kind friend, passionate activist, loving son and brother.  

Tom Marmet

Tom was also the 163rd person to be killed with a gun in the Washington metro area this year. I’ve spent time this week learning more about the others who have died by gun violence. In Washington, D.C., 21 were children and teenagers. The vast majority were people of color. Looking at their photographs and reading their stories is overwhelmingly sad.   

Adas Israel Congregation

Then on Monday evening, I joined the streams of people who made their way to Adas Israel Congregation to mourn the death of the 11 persons killed at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Over 4,000 people of all faiths and ages quietly lined up to enter the Adas Israel. Most of us had to stand outside and watch the service via live stream, but no one seemed to mind. We simply needed to be there–to pray, to weep, and to say that hatred will not have the final word.

What are we to do in the face of such loss?

While I am not one to shy away from the political issue of gun violence and the work to be done to prevent hate crimes, the first impulse in these times must surely be relational. We’re called to show up among the grieving, to offer our woefully inadequate words and heartfelt prayers. If you’re close to someone who is grieving on this All Saints’ Day, you might give them a call, write a note, or stop by their house with food. It will mean more than you will ever know.

Jewish leaders across the country are inviting all people of faith and goodwill to #ShowUpforShabbat this Friday this evening. We’re all welcome to attend Sabbath prayers at our local synagogue, as a sign of solidarity and to pray for peace. Is there one near you that you might attend? Paul Budde and I will be at Washington Hebrew Congregation.

If you can’t attend Friday prayers this week, consider writing a letter of condolence and support to a nearby Jewish community, neighbor, or co-worker. Your kindness will be long remembered.

Jesus said that those who mourn are blessed. We can be part of that blessing, whenever we show up to give thanks for a life well lived, grieve for one taken too soon, or to take our place among those who will respond to hatred with fierce, unwavering love.