Beloved in Christ,
This morning I needed to be surrounded by a parish. Why? Last night it was reported on the local news that a man had been involved in a dispute with his brother which resulted in a knife being drawn, a gun being produced, an automobile abduction, a chase, a SWAT team, a shot……………and a death. The name of the victim has not been released. I am releasing it. His name was Keith Allen and I baptized him. I knew his father who died when Keith was a toddler, I know his mother who is somewhat disabled, I know his brother whom we cannot find, and I know his eldest brother with whom he had the fight. Keith was Schizophrenic. Keith had been ROTC. Keith had wanted to be a doctor to save lives, and now he is dead.
As the days go on we will read reports about what happened, but Keith was a child of God, and we cannot even imagine what was going through his mind in the final hours of his life. I had the privilege of visiting with him at various points in his life, and since my “retirement” as Bishop of Quincy and my return to the State of Texas, I have seen him both at the Church where I baptized him, and where his father’s cremains are placed, and at the church which I currently am serving. He was shy, withdrawn, sad and at the same time searching to discover how to function with all that he had endured. Indeed, it was reported by the local news that authorities had had various contacts with him. So have I, and so has God.
Now we live within the realm of mercy. A mother has lost her child, two brothers have lost a brother, and a mind that was occasionally trapped within the complexities of mental illness has ceased to function in this world.
So…why did I need to be surrounded today by a parish? This is not about me!!! This is about the fact that far too many people believe that their rationalizations and excuses for being apart from the Body of Christ are reasonable. Today is a day when people need to hold closer to one another. What would you say to that mother, and to that brother who now wonders what he could have done? This is why the Body of Christ holds fast. This is why we get up on Sunday mornings even when we are sick or tired. Most of the conflict in families and churches are insignificant in the light of the tragic elements related to Keith Allen. For the media it is a story that will be old news tomorrow, but for those who knew him, this will be ongoing pain.
Mental illness, in a general sense, is on one hand either an excuse for bad behavior, or an explanation for misunderstood behavior, but last night a young man died. In a few days he will be buried….but in the realm of God’s love he had a name that should not be buried ..Keith Allen.
Today I baptized two precious girls. We named them, and we commended them to God as He adopted them as His own.
Rest In Peace Keith Allen. You had very little in this world, but at the font you were named, reborn, regenerate, and became an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven. May the Angels lead you into Paradise.
Bp. Keith L. Ackerman, SSC