The Rev. Nancy Moore, priest of the our two congregations in Piscataquis County: St. John’s, Brownville Junction, and St. Augustine’s, Dover-Foxcroft, served as a substitute teacher today in a local elementary school. After the school day was over, with a heavy heart, she drove to St. John’s to pray for the families affected by today’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Earlier this afternoon, on Facebook, she invited people to join her. This evening she shared a story of what happened when she got there.
On my drive to church, I decided that I needed to ring the bell, once for every child killed in the slaughter in CT today (a number which has reached 20; 2 children died in hospital). I stood there, putting all my grief and anger and frustration into pulling on the rope. Twenty times it rang as I sobbed.
As the reverberations died down, I heard neighborhood kids: “What was that? Why was it ringing so much?” They walked toward the church from different directions; I went out to meet them. Some of them were children I had just left in school an hour before. They asked what I was doing, and I explained, “There were children hurt in a school very far away from here, and I thought I should ring them bell for them, to help us remember them.” We talked for a while; I reassured them that it all happened very far away, and that we do everything we can to keep them safe because they mean so much to us. Then I told them that if anything ever happened here I would ring the bell for them–but I hoped I never had to do so.
I thought for a minute and realized they would hear the bell ring in ten days, so I said, “We’ll ring the bell on Christmas Eve, but that’s for a GOOD reason!” They wanted to see the inside of the church; initially I told them they should not go into a building with someone they didn’t know, and the two had been in class laughed and said, “But we DO know you, Ms. Moore!” I laughed, too and conceded–but said again that they need to be very careful about such things. It was fascinating to hear the conversations as they walked around, looking at the sanctuary. Two children are church-goers, and knew that the red light inside means “Jesus is inside.” One boy looked all around, and asked, “So where is he? I thought you said someone was in here.” The children then began to share what they knew about faith–that God is always with us, that churches are special places where we can feel God around us. The one boy was FASCINATED by the church, told me it was beautiful.
I told them that if they would like to see the church decorated for Christmas I’ll be there a little early so they can look around, and that we would love to have them join us for church. Then I told them again to listen for the bell on Christmas Eve.