When Laura and I moved back to D.C. to plant Restoration City Church, we rented a little row house in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. It was right down the road from where our church was gathering in Crystal City and we quickly fell in love with the neighborhood. It felt like a small town right in the middle of a big city, it was walkable and had great restaurants and coffee shops. The coffee shops were a particularly big deal for me because they doubled as my office. My favorite is a placed called Swings. I would walk there almost every day. It was only a few blocks from our house and I could get there even faster by cutting through a park with a baseball field. It’s called Simpson Park.
And this morning a Member of Congress, a Hill staffer, a lobbyist and two Capitol Police Officers were shot there. I know exactly where the 3rd base dugout is; I’ve stopped there to make phone calls on my way home. When I hear media reports of Members of Congress being escorted to a basketball court, I know which one they’re talking about. There’s a little park right by the left outfield; that’s where we put Aidan in a swing for the first time. Laura still shops at the Aldi across the street and I still spend a lot of time at Swings. So, it’s more than a little surreal to think of a shooting happening in the middle of a place we know so well and love so much.
I’ve been distracted all day by the shooting. I keep thinking about it, wanting more information, wanting it to make sense and knowing it never will. It makes me sad to know the whole thing will be politicized. It makes me sad to realize that our national political discourse is so divisive that this kind of violence is tragic but not surprising. But there are two thoughts that keep coming to mind more than any other.
One, this is why we planted a church that still meets right up the road from Del Ray. Not this specific incident but the brokenness it flows out of. Not political brokenness, not even moral brokenness but spiritual brokenness. The loss of hope that comes from not knowing God, the fear that comes from not trusting His guiding hand and the pain that sin unleashes in our souls. The church doesn’t exist to make good people better or to keep Christians entertained on a Sunday morning. The church exists to shine the life and hope of Jesus into our world.
Two, we must do more to love and serve our city. I’m shaken up because violence has reared its head in my neighborhood. But for too many in our city and in our world, this is a daily reality. I’ve always lived in neighborhoods where people say, “things like that don’t happen here.” But there are plenty of people who live in neighborhoods where people say, “another one?” Jesus died for the people in those communities as well. He died to make sure that hope wouldn’t be limited to affluent zip codes. He died that every soul would have the opportunity to find life in Him. Every soul.
I love the city I call home. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else or lead a church anywhere else. My prayer is simply that we would be the church – willing to reach out, to care, to love and to serve. And to pray. To pray for those shot, for their families, for our city and for our nation.