Update: Third victim in Maryland church shooting dies

'Profound grief’ turns to worries of violence, homelessness, mental illness

The Rev. Mary-Marguerite Kohn speaks during a 2011 service. Kohn, co-rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Ellicott City, Maryland, died May 5, two days after being shot. Photo/St. Peter’s Church

Editors note: This story was updated at 2:12 EDT May 7 to include funeral information and other details.

[Episcopal News Service] The third victim in the May 3 shootings at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, Maryland, has died.

The Rev. Mary-Marguerite Kohn, 62, died May 5 at University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore where she had been taken after the shooting and placed on life support.

Brenda Brewington, 59, the parish’s administrative assistant, on May 3 had been pronounced dead at the scene in the parish office.

The presumed assailant, identified by the Howard County Police Department as Douglas Franklin Jones, 56, was found in woods adjacent to the church. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and a gun was found nearby, police said in a May 4 statement. Police located a campsite in the woods with personal belongings and believe Jones was living there.

“St. Peter’s has a long history of caring for the poor and needy in Howard County, a tradition formed at the very birth of this church in 1842, and a ministry that was lovingly continued by the Rev. Mary-Marguerite Kohn and Brenda Brewington until the tragic events of May 3,” Craig Stuart-Paul, St. Peter’s warden, said in a statement.

Stuart-Paul later pledged that the parish’s ministry would continue “and we won’t do it from behind bulletproof glass.”

The church offered support to mill workers and laborers since the city’s founding, continuing this service until a fire in 1939 destroyed the church. St. Peter’s was rebuilt, using many of the burned bricks from the former site, as well as labor from the then-rector the Rev. Julius Velasco, and re-opened in 1940, according to the statement.

St. Peter’s members gathered May 6 for a private Eucharist to mourn the shootings and deaths. “It began the process of healing,” Stuart-Paul said after the service.

“Many in the diocese wondered how long it would take until the congregation could meet in this space,” Diocese of Maryland Bishop Eugene Sutton said at St. Peter’s on Sunday, according to a Baltimore Sun newspaper report. “How long did it take? Not long.”

Stuart-Paul said Brewington and Kohn were the “kindest, biggest-hearted ladies you would ever meet” and said they were “all about giving.” Kohn’s organs were donated after her death and the donations “speak something about the kind of woman she was,” he added.

Howard County Police investigators have learned that Jones had recently been involved in a dispute with church members, they said in the statement. He visited the church regularly to access their food bank, but recently had become belligerent and argumentative. Police believe Jones’ anger with the church may have been the motive for the shooting, but don’t believe any specific person or people were targeted. No one else was in the building at the time of the shooting.

While some earlier news reports said that Jones had been turned away from the parish’s food pantry because he came more often than policy allowed, the Sun reported  that the Rev. Kirk Kubicek said during the May 6 service that Brewington had been taking Jones to the food pantry at the time of the shooting.

A custodian came upon Brewington and Kohn about 5:20 p.m. May 3 in the parish office and called 911, she said.

Sutton, Kubicek and other clergy who attended the Eucharist said prayers of healing over the office area prior to the service.

“We will never understand it,” Kubicek said of the violence. “We will never understand it no matter how many reports come out of the Howard County Police Department, who have served us all faithfully and well, we will never understand it. But we do understand this. We come from love, we return to love, and love is all around. Brenda and Mary Marguerite have returned home. They have returned to the heart of Love, the eternal center of God’s very Being.”

Sutton spoke during the service of grief and concern, but also named “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.”

The Baltimore-based diocese held its 228th convention May 4-5 and began with prayer for the victims. The convention passed a condolence resolution that also called on congregations to “make appropriate provisions for the safety of their clergy, administrators, and other staff members.”

Expressing “our deep concern for all victims of gun-related crimes,” the convention also said in the resolution that it “pledges to recognize and address the needs of homeless persons in our communities, as well as the needs of our brothers and sisters who suffer from mental illness” and to “challenge and condemn the violence which infects our society and relationships, and to seek peaceful means to address conflict and strife.”

“Our Church, which we regard as a Sanctuary, has been violated by this senseless tragedy, leaving us feeling vulnerable, betrayed, and angered,” the convention said in the resolution’s explanation. “But our Church is also a holy icon, a gift to the world from the God of love and forgiveness. In this time of wounding, death, and brokenness, we stand with all victims and we offer our sanctuaries as places of healing, witnessing to God’s peace amidst violence and to the unbroken love that God has for all.”

Kohn’s funeral will be held May 8 at 3 p.m. EDT at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore. Donations can be made in her name to St. Peter’s and will be disbursed among several organizations and ministries Kohn supported, the diocese said.

Brewington’s life will be remembered May 10 at 1:30 EDT at St. John’s Episcopal Church, which is also in Ellicott City. Interment will follow in that parish’s cemetery.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Comments

  1. When we hear of such tragedies the fear begins to rise about dealing with the homeless, mentally ill and people who live on the edges of our communities. But then no one ever said the Christian faith would be a safe place to hide out. My heart aches for the latest martyrs of the Christian faith and pray Godspeed to them in their new life in Christ. LJR+

  2. Kieran Conroy says:

    Deeply saddened to hear of this. Though it appears these ladies stand with Brother Roger of Taize, and many others who were not afraid to work with people struggling with mental illness and homelessness, and that their church and community are honoring them as such. May their courage be remembered in death as well as life, and inspire Christ’s Church to continue to reach out in love, as well as forgiveness, to those who need it most.

    May Light perpetual shine upon them-and upon the troubled man who took their lives and his own.

  3. David Crean says:

    All idols require sacrifices. We have made the Second Amendment to the Constitution an idol and, like Molech, this idol requires sacrifices in blood. We grieve the deaths of these two Christ-centered women, consign their souls to the loving God who created them, and pray for an end to these needless sacrifices.

  4. Carlton Kelley says:

    In the early years of my priestly ministry, I was associate and later interim rector at St. Peter’s. It is impossible for me to imagine how this horror could have been visited on this place that gave me so much love. I did not know the women who died, but perhaps their senseless deaths can serve as a renewed call for greater care for the poor and homeless which is something I understand to which they were both committed. When will we cease to arm ourselves against the imagined fears that haunt us? When will dollars spent for war and destruction be spent on bread for the poor? Yes, we are on the path of forgiveness and, pray God, we never stray from it for that will only cause a perpetuation of the violence that surrounds us.

  5. Rev. Susan Wallace Moriarty says:

    My heart grieves for St. Peter’s Parish. For the families, the church family and the pain of this world that leads to such senseless violence. My prayers for comfort and peace, are with the congregation and all who knew and loved the victims. My heart rejoices in the truth that death does not have the final answer, and Rev. Mary-Marguerite Kohn and Brenda Brewington are raised with Christ. My prayer is that as St. Peter’s Congregation continue on in their grief process, that they will be renewed in their call to serve the poor, and their witness will bring others to new life in Jesus Christ. God be with you all.

  6. John-Albert Dickert says:

    It is such a stone on the heart when such things happen. This strikes all people of faith to the core of their being. “Eternal Rest grant unto them O, Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.”
    Amen.

  7. The heart-rending news of the shooting reached the national board of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship as we met in Chicago. After lifting all the victims to the Light, we wrote a note of deep sadness and sympathy to the congregation. And then we redoubled our dedication to confronting violence in our culture, especially the campaign by the NRA to put a hand-gun in the hands of every American. The Children’s Altar in the Cathedral in Baltimore, Bp. Sutton’s diocese, lights a candle for every child killed each year by gun-violence in the city. At the end of the year, the candles are “retired” at the high altar. EPF prays for the “retirement” of all our sorrow, grief and anger over the ravages in our communities caused by guns, as we work together to pass sane gun laws.

  8. Donald Snyder says:

    A close friend of mine has been a St. Peter’s parishioner for several years. He told me over the weekend of the friendship he had formed with Mother Mary-Marguerite. She was also assisting my friend as he went to through the process for ordination to the vocational deaconate. These 2 deaths have created a void in this parish. Please pray for the families and friends of the victims and for the St. Peter’s community.

  9. Mike Losinger says:

    Mary Marguerite worked with me in an AIDS ministry in Albany, NY, and was a good friend to my partner and me. Her dying was as she lived her life: caring, there for the “other”, and radically committed to the inclusive Love our Church seeks to reflect. MM’s life was not perfect nor was it easy. Yet she made us accountable to our words and let neither us nor herself off the hook with eloquent rhetoric. Her death reminds me again that most of our martyrs were not upholding intellectual “truths”. as so many of our modern literalist leaders proclaim. Rather, she…and they…were radically present, “there” in a transformed presence which sometimes leads to death. And I can just hear MM now in her characteristic phrase saying: “Oh, well!” Thanks, sister.

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