[Episcopal News Service] A week after a homeless man who was presumed to have shot two employees of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, Maryland, and then killed himself, the Diocese of Maryland continues to call for forgiveness.
Sutton made his comments to reporters outside the funeral service at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore for St. Peter’s co-rector, the Rev. Mary-Marguerite Kohn, 62. She died May 5 at University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore where she had been taken after the shooting and placed on life support.
Brenda Brewington, 59, the parish’s administrative assistant, had been pronounced dead at the scene in the parish office. Her life was remembered May 10 St. John’s Episcopal Church, which is also in Ellicott City. Her family asked that the service be private.
Some of the diocese’s congregations have offered to hold the funeral for the presumed assailant, identified by the Howard County Police Department as Douglas Franklin Jones, 56, according Sharon Tillman, diocesan director of communications.
Jones’ family had “neither accepted nor declined” the offer as of late May 9, Tillman told the Baltimore Sun newspaper..
Sutton said outside of Kohn’s service that people had gathered “to remember all who are on the front lines of ministry. These are the administrators, the secretaries, those priests who are alone.”
“We’re also gathered with concern for our society, a society that’s still has not figured out a way to keep deadly arms out of distressed persons who can do so harm, and a society that will have people on the streets whom society at large has not cared for, and they end up at the doorsteps of our churches and our churches welcome them, our churches receive them and help them in the name of Christ,” he said.
Jones was found dead in woods adjacent to the church shortly after the shooting. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and a gun was found nearby, police said in a May 4 statement. Police located a campsite in the woods with personal belongings and believe Jones was living there.
Investigators have learned that Jones had recently been involved in a dispute with church members, they said in the statement. He visited the church regularly to access their food bank, but recently had become belligerent and argumentative. Police believe Jones’ anger with the church may have been the motive for the shooting, but don’t believe any specific person or people were targeted. No one else was in the building at the time of the shooting.
While some earlier news reports said that Jones had been turned away from the parish’s food pantry because he came more often than policy allowed, the Rev. Kirk Kubicek, St. Peter’s co-rector, said recently that Brewington had been taking Jones to the food pantry at the time of the shooting.
The Rev. Carol Pinkham Oak, rector of near-by St. John’s where Brewington’s funeral is being held, told the Sun that “from St. John’s point of view, we see this as a tragedy, and we also see this as a homeless man who was suffering with mental illness, so with our Christian understanding, we have offered him forgiveness.”
“There is still grief and sadness and anger, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be forgiveness,” Oak said.
The Baltimore-based diocese held its 228th convention May 4-5 and began with prayer for the victims. The convention passed a condolence resolution that also expressed concern for the security of church workers and all victims of gun-related crimes. It also pledged to address the needs of homeless persons and those who are mentally ill.