Langs’ pain ‘will always be there’

Published October 1, 1999

Rev. Dale Lang says ‘God is making our son’s death count for something.’

Rev. Dale Lang may be the best-known Anglican priest in Canada.

While he says he would not have chosen the notoriety – even aside from the fact that it took the shooting death of his 17-year-old son Jason to achieve it – Mr. Lang is making the best of it.

“God is making our son’s death count for something,” Mr. Lang said in an interview at the Crossroads Centre studios in Burlington, Ont., where 100 Huntley Street is shot. Mr. Lang appeared on the Christian show for a week at the beginning of September.

Anglican priests tend not to make the news in the secular press very often. But the media descended on Taber, Alta., after a young man walked into his high school and shot two students, killing Jason and injuring another boy.

Many Canadians expressed amazement at the way Mr. Lang and his wife Diane reacted to their son’s killing. Rather than demand the hide of the youth who killed their child, the couple led a memorial service at the school. Mr. Lang led mourners to the very spot his son was shot and “exorcised” the evil from it.

While Mr. Lang was busy in Burlington at the beginning of the school year, Mrs. Lang was at the Taber school on the first day of school, greeting students. She has also met with the mother of the boy who killed her son. Mrs. Lang hugged and prayed for the woman.

Mr. Lang has accepted speaking engagements across the country and has spoken both to church groups and at secular functions.

“It helps us a little in the grieving process,” he said.

For a change, the media has not edited out the Christian message from what he has had to say, Mr. Lang said.

“The notoriety doesn’t mean anything to me,” he said. “I think I’m the same person I was before it happened. I’m doing the same thing. It’s just different audiences, different places? A lot of the message I’m giving to the general public is the fact that we have lost the sense of who we are in God. We don’t respect each other ? We live in a time when you have denigrated what it means to be a human.”

The dignity of being human is lost in such things as pornography, abortion and violence in movies and videos, he said.

People have asked him how he has responded so gracefully to the tragedy.

“I give the glory to the Lord,” he said. “I’m just an average person. I’m no different.”

Looking back over the video material of the time just after their son’s death, Mr. Lang said, “I realized it wasn’t me doing all that stuff. It was God. Left to my own devices, I would have been a basket case.”

Neither he nor his wife is angry about their son’s death.

“I felt anger the day I found out my son was gone,” he said. “God turned it into sorrow right away. I have never felt anger since then. I can’t be angry. I don’t know what tomorrow brings. It has taught me there’s no knowing what the next hour will bring. I felt no anger towards God or the family or the boy.”

Taber has not ostracized the family of the boy charged with the killings.

“We’ve supported the family and asked the community to do so,” Mr. Lang said. “No one gave them a hard time.”

His children are coping with the loss of their brother in different ways. His daughter Jennifer, 7, is coping well, he said. She’s very honest and brings up remembrances of her brother often. Matt, 15, is musical and pounds his anger out on his drums and guitars.

Their eldest son, Jeff, is married and living away from home while Mark, 19, moved home for a while to be with their family. He said that Mark and Jeff both “re-dedicated their lives to Jesus” after Jason’s death.

Mr. Lang denies all his activity may be a way of avoiding dealing with his grief over his son’s death.

“I can’t hide from the grief. (The speaking engagements) do help me to feel like there is meaning coming out of the death of my child. It is devastating enough to lose a child, but to say nothing’s changed would be terrible.”

Mr. Lang has a vision of what he would like to see change in this country: “About three to four years of revival in the land,” he said with the same evangelical fervour he displayed on 100 Huntley Street. “Many people coming to the faith so traffickers in drugs and pornography would shut up shop because there would be no interest, so damaging things would disappear. People would come to the faith and stop damaging each other.”

Some days are tougher than others are, he admitted.

“We move from times of joy to times of grieving. That’s just the way it is. I know the pain we feel will never go away. It will always be there.”


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