Last Sunday was our second outdoor worship service. We thought that having it on a day where the streets were “open” in Hyannis would be a good thing. There were so many people walking Main Street and even if they didn’t join us, they could at least see a group of diverse peoples, housed and unhoused, coming together, interacting, being loving and compassionate towards each other. What we didn’t know is that directly across the street from where we were set up there would be stadium speakers blaring “The Macarena” and “Cotton Eyed Joe,” along with other kids dance favorites. So we turned up our speakers and sang, we prayed with a back beat, we had communion with the clang of a firetruck bell as our contemplative music, and we gathered for fellowship, joyfully dancing to the street music. A congregant thanked us profusely and said over and over that he is trying to change, that he is working hard to be the person God intends for him to be.
Worship ended and we left Hyannis. A few hours later a sweet 23 year old member of the unhoused community named Brenden, beloved by all who knew him, was brutally murdered on the Hyannis green. Word from the community is that Brenden was trying to keep someone from being hurt and got stabbed instead of the intended victim. Our community is enraged, they are afraid, and they are in deep shock and grief.
We gathered to honor him at the beach. We will gather again to honor him at the shelter. His family will have a memorial next month. We meet in small groups and hug, and cry, and say “it’s not fair,” “he didn’t deserve this.” We try to make sense of something that is beyond our grasp.
I’m struck by how a joyful, fun, happy, celebratory day can so quickly turn to such heartbreak. I often remind people that life is a measure of joy and sorrow, but this feels like too much right now. The juxtaposition is too stark, too extreme and who knew Brenden will be changed forever.
At the intersection of joy and sorrow, pain and ease, ridiculousness and heartbreak is change, transformation, learning a new way of being. I pray that a path of compassion and love is opened up, that Brenden’s sweetness, and caring affable way is held up as an example of how to be in the world. That the grief of his death moves us to find a better way to be in community with each other and moves individuals to get the help that they need so that they can be healthy in mind, body and spirit. I pray that the change that comes is one that reflects God’s desire for compassion, mercy and love.