I have returned from a wonderful vacation at the Massachusetts coast visiting my brand-new granddaughter, Juniper – and spending time with the rest of my family! Oh, how blessed I am to have three healthy and happy children and their spouses and now four delightful granddaughters!! I count these blessings daily – and even most especially as I read the news and hear of tragedies around the world.
Last December, we were all stunned by the senseless shooting of the children and teachers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. This event wasn’t the first mass-shooting nor was it the last as we saw just last week at the Navy Shipyard in Washington, DC. And, though it wasn’t in our local neighborhood, our global community has suffered again with the horrific shooting of shoppers at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. Kenya. While I understand that the issue of gun control seems to be pretty complex and strongly-held opinions may divide us, our Church has taken a stand. At last year’s General Convention, Resolution D003 addressed this concern.
Gun Free Zones (D003)
Resolved, That the 77th General Convention requests every parish and every diocesan place of work to declare their establishment as Gun Free Zones.
I recognize that this resolution is only a request; however, our Diocesan Council passed a motion affirming this resolution at our meeting on June 29. A letter to this effect will be mailed to all clergy and to congregation without clergy. Our household needs to know that our buildings and properties are a safe sanctuary for worship and ministry.
This is one action we can take but it seems rather insignificant in the face of these tragedies. We can also join in prayer for the victims, their families, and all those affected:
Almighty and All-Compassionate God: Our hearts are broken today as we contemplate the numbing circumstances of another mass murder in the headlines. We pray especially that your healing presence will be with all of those who have been directly affected. We pray for the victims who have suffered physical and psychological wounds as a result of being attacked without warning while they went about a normal part of daily life. Heal their bodies, minds, souls and spirits and give them good caregivers who will listen to them, cry with them and pray with them. May the victims feel our love and your love.
We pray for the families whose loved ones have been killed. Be with them during this time of shock, grief and mourning. Bear them up as they lay to rest their loved ones and as they commend them into your heavenly care. Walk with them through their times of anger, their sorrow that they didn’t get to say goodbye and during the sudden agony of all of their tomorrows when they will be terribly aware of the empty places in their homes and hearts.
We pray for the communities where this tragedy occurred. Help your churches become refuges of comfort. Empower your people to become the hands and feet of Christ to reach out with your restoring love.
We are at a loss for words on how to pray for the people who committed this unimaginable act. Only You can understand the tormented state of mind that must have possessed them. Have mercy on their families and friends who are suffering greatly as a result of this violent act.
Finally, we pray for ourselves. Help us to pray with your compassion for those who suffer violence. Give us a renewed sense of what a gift it is to live each day in peace and freedom. Help us not to allow ourselves to be diminished by fear but instead let us draw closer to you. Make us instruments of your peace in our homes and communities.
All this we ask in the Name of Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
~ Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council