Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Holy Trinity Fire Update

Huber sentencing hearing January 18, 2007

Remarks by the Rev'd George Silides, Rector

If it please the court, owing to the emotional charge of this moment, I would like to read my remarks. First, let me say we appreciate and sympathize with Mr. Edward’s position, and are sorry for his loss. Nothing of our losing property can compare with the situation of Mr. Edward’s awakening to the smell of smoke and the sound of flames in the midst of his sleeping household. That none of his family was injured physically we are truly grateful. Providence alone kept this from being a most extraordinarily devastating fire. Mr. Huber, your rash act endangered many. Destroyed a rare building, one of a kind, and a unique piece of history and link to Juneau’s founding years, now gone forever. The spiritual and social home to generations of people, many who had poured their life’s energies and finances into building, enlarging and maintaining this house of prayer. It housed the memories of many people’s most important life transitions. Baptisms, weddings, funerals, first communions, first recitals—it had accumulated the accumulated affections of hundreds and hundreds of people over a hundred years, it was a repository of people’s joys, sorrows and hopes. You took something you can not give back. Only time and God and the people you took it from can build that sacred space again, bit by bit over the same number of years. And even so, it will be a new space, needing new generations of people to build the same memories—to again hallow it with their own hopes and dreams and joys and sorrows and first times and last times.

Recovery from this tragedy has consumed the energies, time and attention of most of the congregation, and has kept us from other ministry. It has caused conflict, hurt feelings, and in some cases, loss of membership. Not just numbers, but beloved friends.

It has also unified others in a joint effort to rebuild. It has brought us into relationship with other churches, and members of the community of Juneau we had not known before, or had not looked to for common ministry. It has taught us humility and appreciation for all the gifts we have within our congregation, and for every kindness shown us upon which we have had to depend to continue our life as a congregation. It has made us more consciously dependent upon the Grace of God. It has brought out the best of Christian virtues in many people, and has touched the hearts of many who have been moved to help us from their own sense of values. We are unlearning a few bad habits and dependencies, and are learning new habits of generosity and trust.

And here today, we have the opportunity to test what we wish was our best habit: Forgiveness. Not the cheap kind of “it’s OK, it doesn’t matter—at least nobody was hurt” Because it DOES matter, and the injury is very real. This gift from our congregation to you is not automatic or cheap, it costs many people a very great deal to make this effort. But even those who do not FEEL this forgiveness want you to have it, for their sake and for yours. They WANT to move on, to let go, to be reconciled, to heal, even if that is not yet where they are today: Our church members want to keep the promises they have made to God. They want to make flesh and blood the prayer they offer every week; “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And they do this so that day will be nearer. You can’t make it O.K. But we don’t want to make it worse. The primary restitution we ask from you is honesty. Honesty about what you’ve done, why it happened, and a change in the way you walk through life that builds up instead of tears down—even when it costs you great personal sacrifice. None of us wants to be known by the worse thing we’ve ever done, and we do not want that for you. We want your life to mean something more than this trial, this sentencing, this pain you caused us, your parents and yourself. We forgive you.

If this court sees fit, we would ask one thing primarily: That Mr. Huber’s incarceration remain here in Juneau, for the sake of his parents. We have visited often with Mr. and Mrs. Barrens, and know and respect the love they have for their son. The court will note the age of Mr. and Mrs. Barrens and will, I hope understand the impossibility of their visiting Mr. Huber anywhere outside of Juneau, even in another Alaskan institution.

Secondly, if financial restitution is thought necessary, we would ask only that if Mr. Huber is given parole, that for the duration of that parole, he tithe 10 percent of any income earned during that time to Holy Trinity. We certainly under no circumstances wish to hinder or harm Mr. Huber’s financial opportunities for independence, but we believe that there is a spiritual benefit from tithing our income to the Lord’s work, a benefit we wish Mr. Huber to enjoy. We pledge in turn to remain in relationship with Mr. Huber, by conversation, by visitation, and by support of his efforts to make a positive difference in the world now, and upon his release.

We thank the court for its allowing us this opportunity to speak.


Post a Comment

<< Home