NEBRASKA: Cathedral offers 'Liturgy of Lament and Hope' after mall shooting

December 11, 2007

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Omaha, Nebraska, was among many area and regional churches that held memorial services in the wake of a deadly shooting spree December 5 at a suburban Omaha shopping mall.


With an assault rifle concealed in a hooded sweatshirt, Omaha police said Robert A. Hawkins, 19, walked into the Von Maur department store at the Westroads Mall and opened fire, killing five women, three men and then himself.

The Very Rev. Ernesto R. Medina, the cathedral's dean for urban mission, said there was a need for the cathedral to offer people a liturgical way to deal with their feelings about the tragedy.

The service was held at noon on December 7 in the downtown Omaha cathedral and was attended by diocesan clergy as well as workers from nearby office buildings, Medina said.

Both the cathedral community and Omaha community at large was "angry but not vengeful," Medina said, adding that residents showed compassion in being willing to pray for Hawkins by name. In the aftermath of other mass killings, Medina said, people have not been so willing to name the perpetrator.

Medina, who serves on the Episcopal Church's Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, ordered the service based on some draft liturgies the commission has been developing to help people deal with loss. (Some of those drafts were included in the commission's report to the 75th General Convention.)

The liturgy included Taize singing, collects from The Book of Common Prayer's burial rites, naming of and prayers for the killed, including Hawkins, and the wounded, and Biblical readings and recitation of psalms.

During his homily, Medina said he told the congregation that the church has to "tell the truth" about times of sadness. "I said that if we're honest about that, we have the possibility of seeing God's grace break through but it takes time," he said, noting that time is not something that the culture is willing to give people.

"Sometimes the church doesn't spend enough time in the sadness of the moment," he added.