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Church community begins to heal after shooting deaths

A piano played, a bell rang and a congregation that less than three days before was shaken and stunned by tragedy continued to move toward healing.

"The Episcopal Church is in pain and agony today," said the Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. "Two wonderful woman have been slain in this place."

"This day is focused on our grief," he said later, "our shared grief and love for our sisters."

This was the first Sunday service at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Ellicott City since a homeless man, a man church members had once served often, came into the building with a gun and, according to county police, shot Brenda Brewington, the parish administrator, and Mary-Marguerite Kohn, the church's co-rector.

Brewington, a 59-year-old Ellicott City woman, was pronounced dead on the scene as police arrived Thursday evening. Kohn, a 62-year-old from Arbutus, was critically wounded and taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where she died on May 5.

Kohn's funeral will be held at 3 p.m. May 8 at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore, according to an announcement made Sunday in church. Services for Brewington will be held at 1:30 p.m. May 10 at St. John's Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, a church that opened its doors to members of St. Peter's on the evening of the shooting.

"Many in the diocese wondered how long it would take until the congregation could meet in this space," Sutton said at St. Peter's on Sunday. "How long did it take? Not long."

The night after the shooting, St. Peter's reopened to allow its congregation to gather with — and for — each other.

And on Sunday, about 175 people packed into a brick room at St. Peter's, located in the 3600 block of Rogers Avenue near Frederick Road. For two hours, their services included a mix of prayers and praise, mourning the losses of the two women and making sure that what they did with their lives would not be forgotten with their deaths.

"No times have ever seemed so bad as these past few days," said the Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek, the church's remaining co-rector. "A badness that in truth lasted only seconds, and yet seems to have eternal everlasting consequences for us all."

The man police believe shot the women, Douglas Franklin Jones, was found dead that same evening in a nearby wooded area, where he was thought to have lived, from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The 56-year-old man had regularly gone to the church's food bank but had recently been in a dispute with members there and had become belligerent and argumentative, according to Sherry Llewellyn, spokeswoman for the Howard County Police Department.

Sutton said Sunday that a church office where Brewington and Kohn were found has since been "hallowed."

He spoke of the emotions of grief and concern, "but also anger at a society that has still not figured out how to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental illness, out of the hands of those who can cause so much damage."

There is anger toward Jones, he said, "but also acknowledgment that he was a victim, although he caused victims as well. We are followers of Christ, and so the process of forgiveness has already begun."

Kubicek said Brewington and Kohn were "doing the Lord's work," citing Matthew 25:35 — "When I was hungry, you fed me."

"Like nearly every day of the week, Brenda was leading a profoundly hungry person to the food pantry, more hungry than we ever knew," Kubicek said. "In the matter of just a few moments it was all over. We will never understand it.

"But we do understand this: We come from love, we return to love, and love is all around," he said. "Brenda and Mary-Marguerite have returned home."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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