By Stan Friedman
SEATTLE, WA (June 9, 2014)—Jack Levison, former North Park University New Testament professor and current faculty member at Seattle Pacific University School of Theology, wrote an article for the Huffington Post on Saturday, which commenters have called one of the best pieces written in helping them cope with the tragedy that unfolded last Friday, when a gunman killed one students and wounded two others.
In the article published Saturday, Levison lamented that the place he has known well will be forever different: “But the lobby, which I’ve walked through hundreds of times on my way to class, where I’ve casually picked up a free copy of the New York Times, where students gather to study and chat, will always be the place where ‘the shooting’ happened. We’ll always be that small Christian college in Seattle that had the shooting. The name will reverberate. Columbine. Virginia Tech. SPU.”
But like nearly every scriptural psalm of lament, Levison wrote of living with incongruity and consolation. He recalled the words spoken to his wife and fellow professor, Priscilla Pope-Levison, by her spiritual director while also serving at the North Park. “Jane Koonce [who is a member of Winnetka Covenant Church] told her, ‘In consolation, remember desolation. In desolation, remember consolation.’ We do. We have. Both.…
“Consolation in desolation, desolation in consolation. Being given the chance, at fifty-seven, to sit with twenty-two-year-old students on a golden evening in a grassy collegiate quad—praying with them for people we don’t even know, holding the hands of students whose exams I’ve graded or others I’ve just met, and caring, really caring, how they’re doing.
“Is it callous to say I found consolation in desolation on that grassy quad with students I admire and cherish? These students were so reflective, comfortable in the silence, mature in their prayers for the shooter, the victims, our community. I didn’t mean to or want to, but I felt hopeful. In four short years, just 120 weeks, these students, most of them seniors, had learned to live into ambiguity, had garnered a textured faith free of trivialities.”
Levison taught at North Park from 1989 to 1994.
Local Covenant congregations, as well as other churches in the area, set aside time in their worship services to grieve and pray, and have also ministered to students, faculty, and staff since the shooting.