Archpastoral Letter on the Amish Children Massacre

October 16, 2006

To The Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers and Beloved Faithful of this God-saved Diocese:

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Dear Fathers and Faithful:

Near a village in Pennsylvania called Paradise, there is now an empty parcel of land. Next spring it will be carpeted with green alfalfa as pasture for the flocks. Formerly it held a simple, white wooden schoolhouse. That parcel was the West Nickel Mines Amish Schoolhouse. On Thursday, October 12 the schoolhouse was razed.

Undoubtedly you understand why this had to be. On a horrible morning on October 2, a young man crazed with anger and shame invaded a defenseless group of children and teachers. By the time the shooting and the screams were over, ten little girls had been shot. Of these, five perished, mainly because a demonized young man wanted to add homicide to his suicide.

So it is understandable why the timbers and the shingles of this little Amish school, in this little pacifistic and primitive Anabaptist community were bulldozed at night. No child should ever be sent to school in such a place again.

What is less understandable is the reaction of the Amish. It would have been understandable for the Amish community to respond with angry grief. It would have been understandable for the parents, family and friends of the little girls to demand retribution. It would have been understandable for the community to tell the wife and children of the murderer to leave the village of Paradise and to never come back.

All of this would have been too understandable, for we know ourselves all too well. But what is not understandable is what the Amish actually did. The members of this schismatic, heterodox sect have embraced the wife and children of Charles Carl Roberts, the young man who carried his guns into the West Nickel Mines School. They have given money to help support the young widow in her own sorrow. They have prayed for her and the children. They even attended the funeral services of the young man himself, the one who shot dead their own little girls.

Several days ago, the mother of + Marian Fisher welcomed Marie Roberts into her home for dinner. Marie is the widow of Charles Carl Roberts. Marian Fisher is the thirteen year old girl who, on October 2, stood face to face with the mad and heavily-armed Charles Carl Roberts, and she begged him to shoot her and to let the others go free.

We have much to learn from the Amish, and from little Christians like Marian. They do not have the fullness of the Faith, for that is what Orthodoxy is. But if these Amish do not have the fullness of the Faith, they do have the fullness of Forgiveness.

I call upon us all, in this Diocese, to seek this very same fullness. Seek this same perfection of forgiveness by being authentic in Orthodoxy, and by praying for these examples of mercy: + Marian Fisher (13); + Anna Mae Stoltzfus (12); + Naomi Rose Ebersole (7); and the two sisters, + Lena Miller (7) and + Mary Liz Miller (8).

In a previous letter, I have asked you to send donations to those who have been hurt by the violence at Nickels Mines near Paradise. I ask you again in this letter. Think of the beauty of their love, the mercy and grace we have seen in these people, who have taught us what the Lord Jesus said, from the point of His own extremity of suffering grief, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do".

Send them a gift, and thank them for reminding us, in these coldhearted days, about the meaning of forgiveness once again.

With my blessing, I remain

Most sincerely yours in Christ,

                                          + METROPOLITAN NICHOLAS

 


The Forefeast of the Presentation of the Theotokos into the Temple; Gregory the Righteous of Decapolis; Proclus, Archbishop of Constantinople

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