Benediction: Bringing Light To Our Neighbors

It was after the candlelight prayer walk that I met Emily and her adult daughter, Shavonna. Our Pasadena seminary community had come together to try to process the fatal stabbings of Fuller friends Lawrence and Denise Bressler, which had occurred the week before in a nearby apartment building. We gathered on a Tuesday night to listen to Dr. Cynthia Eriksson explain how trauma affects us when life feels terrifying and unpredictable—and what healing looks like. The evening ended with a small group taking a candlelight prayer walk to where the murders took place, to pray for the other tenants.

Earlier that week we had posted flyers in the apartment building where the Bresslers lived, inviting neighbors to the vigil. Emily and Shavonna decided to come. They told me repeatedly how grateful they were that we had invited them to the gathering. They had been living for over two years in the apartment building where the stabbing occurred, but had never set foot on Fuller’s campus across the street. Shavonna told me that this tragedy in their building brought back all the pain of the murder of one of her best friends a year ago. Her mother, Emily, said that she held her 20-something daughter like a baby the night after the stabbing. “Thank you for caring about how this affected us,” they said to me. “We’ve never been to anything like this. But it really helps.”  We only exchanged a few words, but it was very meaningful for me.

+ by Laura Harbert, affiliate professor of clinical psychology