[Note: A candlelight remembrance was held near the Seal Beach pier the evening of October 11 in memory of the eight deaths and one serious injury at Orange County’s worst mass murder.]
It was my privilege to be senior pastor of Grace Community Church here in Old Town for 28 years, until this past January. It has been my privilege to be a minister in the area these past 42 years.
In 1970, just four months into my pastorate in Long Beach, this young pastor was called the evening after Christmas to come to downtown Long Beach, where one of our church members and his father had been murdered in the store they owned.
Little could I have imagined—less than three months before my retirement at my church in Seal Beach I would be called to the Salon Meritage following the terrible killings and trauma there.
The peaceful community of Seal Beach has been changed forever. I thank God for every opportunity he has given me to be of service to the victims’ families and to our community in the aftermath of that tragedy.
We may ask ourselves and others, including ministers, about why God would permit this to happen. I’ve long given up on the “Why?” question when it comes to God’s ways. I simply don’t know, and when I don’t know it’s better not to speak.
But at the human level I can answer the “Why?” questions.
• Because one man chose to break the commandment, “Thou shalt not murder.”
• Because one man did not “love his neighbor as himself.”
• Because one man did not regard the Golden Rule as worthy of practice: “Do unto others what you would have others do unto you.”
Now, one year removed from this event, many of us still cry out to God in the words of the biblical psalmist if we feel God is distant:
Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
And the answer returns to us:
But you, O God, do see trouble and grief.
The victim commits himself to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.
You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.
In this spirit we gather as the close-knit community of Seal Beach to remember, to pray, to reach out and comfort one another, to be God’s hands of mercy and peace.
By Donald Shoemaker
Senior Chaplain, Seal Beach Police Department
Pastor Emeritus, Grace Community Church