The story of a stolen ordination cross
By Pastor Pam Hunter - Prince of Peace Lutheran Church
In the last two weeks, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church broken has been into four times. Some things were stolen, most of which we can replace. One thing was stolen that is both irreplaceable and precious to me, and at the same time, worth very little to people looking for quick cash. The thing that was stolen was my ordination cross.
This cross is very plain, rough looking, and made of metal, suspended on a simple cord. It’s made from the melted down bullets used to control the population of El Salvador during the civil war that began in 1980. It was made by Lutherans from that country who were trying to both thank people for their prayers and remind them of the great danger that Pastor Medardo Gomez-Soto was facing. He had been arrested and tortured in 1983 for opening a refugee camp after the assassination of over 1000 civilians in that country. That was the year that I entered seminary at the Episcopal Divinity School, in Cambridge, MA. The war in El Salvador was close to our class in seminary, as one of our own was a refugee from San Salvador, preparing for the Episcopal priesthood before returning to work in his country.
After Pr. Gomez’s release, Lutherans of the USA sent pastors to be with him and his family all the time to discourage more harassment. He kept opening schools and clinics during the war, and in 1986, the year of my ordination to the priesthood, he was elected the Lutheran Bishop of El Salvador. He came to the USA on a tour, visiting churches and giving crosses made of spent bullets to people as a symbol of being the church in the midst of war, and as a thanksgiving for our prayers during a dangerous time. My ordaining pastors, The Rev. H. Fred Reisz, retired president of Southern Lutheran Seminary, but then Pastor at University Lutheran Church, Cambridge, MA, where I was a member, and his associate, The Rev. Susan Thomas, campus pastor to MIT, and later Lutheran pastor in Jerusalem both asked Bishop Gomez for a cross to present to me during my ordination.
They gave it to me on May 30th, 1986, when I was ordained at St. Mary the Virgin Roman Catholic Church in Lowell, MA. St. Mary’s was associated with the Franciscan movement, and some of the Sisters of St. Clare came to me to receive communion that day. That remains a precious memory.
Bishop Gomez was consecrated at the refugee camp he established in 1983. I wish I could have been there!
Many people of faith lost their lives in El Salvador while serving a very frightened and mistreated population. Bishop Gomez’s childhood pastor, The Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated during worship. Many people were tortured, including many of Bishop Gomez’s congregation. Like, Bishop Gomez, if they weren’t killed (but, always, “Presente!”) they didn’t give up. Today, Bishop Gomez leads the Truth, Justice and Peace commission, still working to restore his country to health.
When I wore that cross, I was always reminded of how important the work of Christians really is. We are the ones who are meant to go to the broken places of our human society and do the work of healing and reconciliation. That cross has influenced my choices in ministry for 26 years now. Whenever I am dissatisfied as a pastor, it is always linked to how that cross reminds me that there are truly important things we must be doing to work for the good not just of other Christians but for the whole world.
I miss this cross. The other cross that was stolen -the shiny one- that one can stay lost. It would mean a lot to me if my ordination cross was returned.