St. Mary Anne’s holds service for Las Vegas victims
NORTH EAST — As the clock struck noon Tuesday, the first peal of the bell at St. Mary Anne’s Episcopal Church rang out over the quiet town streets.
The Rev. John Schaeffer pulled the rope on the 300-year-old church’s bell as the half dozen parishioners around him began to quietly count, getting louder as they edged closer to the final, grim number.
“40, 41, 42,” they counted as Schaeffer used his full body weight to pull on the bell cord.
“This is more emotional than I thought,” he said as the numbers steadily rose.
“56, 57, 58, 59,” they said as Schaeffer let the rope drop and all paused to listen as the last peals rang out in the early autumn air.
This scene played out at Episcopal churches all around the country on Tuesday afternoon as congregations gathered to remember the 59 people killed and hundreds injured in Las Vegas on Sunday in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Episcopal churches were asked to all ring their bells at noon Eastern Standard Time as a way to remember the victims.
Schaeffer said the church has held other similar services in the wake of national events, such as the shooting at the Pulse night club in Orlando last year. But he said the act of ringing the bell brought out more emotions for him than he expected.
“It was highly emotional,” he said. “It was just going through my head, the photos that we all saw online and on TV ... it was pretty emotional, I was thinking it would be more mechanical.”
The service included the reading of several prayers and a psalm as well as a “note to God,” that started with a simple greeting: “Dear God, we are not OK today.”
“We had selfishly hoped to find a new normal, but perhaps that was asking too much of ourselves ... We have been reminded again that some people are not looking for anything that is reasonable, logical or rational; they just want to watch the world burn. We are not OK. They are not OK. Our world is not OK. I am not OK,” the prayer continued.
The prayer ended on a more hopeful note, citing a verse from Corinthians that states, “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love,” before concluding:
“Though our faith and hope may be a little weary, we trust that love will be the greatest.”
Different members of the St. Mary Anne’s congregation took turns reading during a service for the Las Vegas shooting victims.
The Rev. John Schaeffer rings the bell at St. Mary Anne’s Episcopal Church in memory of the Las Vegas shooting victims as parishioners look on.