By Kirk Petersen

A little more than two blocks down Main Street from St. Matthias Episcopal Church of Waukesha, Wisconsin, a speeding SUV crashed into a crowd of people on Sunday evening, November 21, killing five and injuring dozens more.

Waukesha is about an hour’s drive northwest of Kenosha, where on Friday, November 19, Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges for shooting three men, two of them fatally, in August 2020. St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church is about a quarter-mile from the closest shooting site, if you walk diagonally through Library Park.

Two churches with similar names, in two towns with Algonquin names, where momentous events occurred two days apart, both in the Diocese of Milwaukee.

Both churches are “faithful communities keeping their doors open, and their ministry, in the face of profound challenges,” said the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Lee, who is serving a two-year term as Milwaukee’s bishop provisional while the three Wisconsin dioceses discern whether they should merge.

In Waukesha, St. Matthias Rector David Simmons wrote to his congregation: “As far as I know, none of our community have been directly affected in the events yesterday. The church was used to shelter in place for a couple of hours.” Simmons, who is the ecumenical officer for the diocese, was busy preparing for an interfaith vigil to be held in a park Monday afternoon, and could not be reached for comment.

In Kenosha, St. Matthews is between rectors, and Lee said “The evening that the verdict was delivered, they were scheduled to have a final meeting between the vestry and their next rector, and we contacted them and wondered if that was a wise thing” because of the possibility of protests over the verdict. The vestry was having none of it — “This is important work that God’s given us to do, we don’t think there’s any reason not to meet,” Lee said he was told. The city, and indeed the country, remained calm after the verdict.

Lee said he was proud of the way both congregations were responding to a difficult situation, with “doors open, candles lit, and prayers offered – a place of refuge.”

Google Maps photo in Kenosha shows St. Matthews, lower right, and the closest shooting location.