As the Bishop of Alabama says in her first words sent to the Church, what we all thought was impossible, or hoped was, came true today. And, of course, why is it that it has to come to our doorstep to get the full import and reality of this current state in our society? But now it has. Many of you know I am currently leading a twice cancelled pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We are currently on the Shores of the Sea of Galilee and it is here that I first got the word of this horrible tragedy. I immediately sent an text to Bishop Brian Prior who, as many of you know, is assisting in Alabama right now. It turns out Bishop Prior stays in that very neighborhood when there, and he was at the church about five minutes after the shooting and then spent the hours after gathering people in prayer. I assured him and Bishop Glenda Curry of our prayers from the Holy Land and from around the Church.
You may remember that I was just recently in Birmingham for the Church Pension Fund Board meeting. We met there to walk together a Civil Rights pilgrimage and to work on our own racial reckoning. We met some incredible Christian Episcopalians while there and those very people grieve deeply now.
We now know that 3 people were killed by a person who attended a potluck and for reasons still not fully known, began to shoot at the people present. The reason hardly matters. The means is a crisis. Being in the Holy Land, the great irony of our sometimes blind exceptionalism is all too apparent. As I told our pilgrims here, many of you asked about the “violence” in this country (Israel/Palestine) and yet being here, what do you think they must think of the senseless, and rampant violence in ours. Surely we should pray, but we simply must do more about this, we have to act. We have a big problem, and it is not confined to one denomination or to anyone thing. It is a problem for us all that affects us all.
As our Presiding Bishop said in his statement today,
“We join together in prayer with Bishop Glenda Curry, Bishop Brian Prior, the clergy and people of St. Stephen’s, and the whole Episcopal Diocese of Alabama. I want to encourage us as a church to offer special prayers this Sunday for those affected by the shooting at St. Stephen’s—and for all victims of gun violence.”
Blessings to all of you, and peace,
Resources to Respond to Gun Violence:
The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, which has resources to respond to gun violence here: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/ogr/resources-to-respond-to-gun-violence/
Bishop’s United Against Gun Violence, whose website contains advocacy and prevention resources, as well as liturgical resources: https://bishopsagainstgunviolence.org/