My heart, as I am sure yours does, breaks as I hear the news coming out of Texas this weekend. During this Sunday’s services at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, a 26-year-old white male entered the building and killed at least 27 individuals, injuring others. While the details are still coming in, we do know that the shooter was killed near the scene. This most recent mass shooting strikes especially close to home, as it occurred inside a place of worship, a sacred space, a place that is supposed to be a haven and a refuge for all. Surely we are becoming a society where it is safe no where. And even sadder, the fact that most of the world has known that feeling and reality for quite some time.
It’s becoming easier and easier to go numb in the face of this seemingly endless succession of shootings. It was only last week that a person ran down bikers and then terrorized the people of New York with guns, and only a few weeks earlier that the people of Las Vegas were subjected to the worst mass shooting committed by a single individual in our nation’s history. The increasing frequency of these attacks can lead us to feelings of hopelessness, despair, and, even worse, apathy and indifference. We cannot allow these horrific acts of violence to paralyze us into inaction. In fact, I would urge us all to pay even closer attention to the ways we, as individuals but also we the Church, are complicit through our sins of commission and omission. We should be acting and speaking out against all types of violence. This horrific act occurs as we are finally shining a light on sexual violence (#metoo) and our tremendous silence in the face of this ageless problem. Again, sins of commission and omission.
While we grieve with those who have lost loved ones today – friends, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters – and while I ask you to join me in praying for the victims and their families, I would also urge you to continue to speak out against our culture of violence. We must examine ourselves and the ways we participate in and perpetuate a society that holds such little value for human life. We must urge our lawmakers to take meaningful action to keep guns out of the hands of those who would use them for ill.
I would encourage you to visit the website for Bishops Against Gun Violence (http://bishopsagainstgunviolence.org) for a list of resources and actions you can take in the face of this latest deadly act of violence. I would also urge you to look into the Episcopal Public Policy Network (http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/) and its work on all of these issues with Congress and other leaders. You can also read our Presiding Bishop’s reflections on this tragic act of violence (https://www.episcopalchurch.org/posts/publicaffairs/presiding-bishop-texas-church-shooting).
In the meantime, I leave you with this prayer from the liturgical resources found on the site for Bishops Against Gun Violence:
Almighty and merciful God, whose only Son came to preach peace to the nations: Hear us, we beseech You, and comfort us with Your steady Hand, as we come before You this day in the wake of unspeakable violence. In a world that seems hopeless, help us to remember that our hope rests always in You, and in the resurrection of Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.