In the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, the last Sunday of October is when All Souls Day is commemorated. We ring the bell and name the people in our congregation and in our hearts who have died during the past year.
I think every day of the anonymous souls around the world who have died in violent circumstances in recent months, as well as the souls who die in the US and whose names we generally know.
I think of the fact that each of these souls had a mother and father, possibly children, possibly siblings, and hopes and dreams for their future.
It feels as if it has been a particularly violent year, so I made up this list of deaths from unnatural causes in 2017 so far; I know there are deaths I have missed. I didn’t look them up in any particular order and yet, as you can see, there is an order to them; there is also a sad, sad pattern.
Puerto Rico 51 probably higher
Las Vegas 59
Unarmed black men killed by police 977 since Jan. 1
Rohingya Muslim 3,000 plus
Yemen 5,000 plus
Syria 3,000 in one month reported Oct 1
Baptist minister Robert Lowry (1826 –1899) wrote some of the most beloved hymns that we still sing today. “Shall We Gather at the River” refers to souls crossing the great divide:
Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod,
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?
Refrain: Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.
On the margin of the river,
Washing up its silver spray,
We will talk and worship ever,
All the happy golden day.
Ere we reach the shining river,
Lay we every burden down;
Grace our spirits will deliver,
And provide a robe and crown.
At the smiling of the river,
Mirror of the Savior’s face,
Saints, whom death will never sever,
Lift their songs of saving grace.
Soon we’ll reach the silver river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver
With the melody of peace.
Please take a moment this Sunday, or today, or tomorrow, or every day, to think of all these souls and hope that they did reach the silver river.
You can hear the hymn at https://youtu.be/6Z3pMfCTQHU.