The mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Southerland Springs, Texas can be added to a long list of such shootings that are not only tragic but leave us weary. Yet such things continue to happen in the context of our call to discipleship in Jesus Christ. How are we to respond? Below is a pastoral letter released by the Conference Ministers of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. I commend it to you with the additional prayer that beyond our grief, we utilize this news to fuel our work to create a new, better normal than the one that is emerging.
See you in church,
November 17, 2017
Dear Friends in Christ,
We live in a violent world where people kill each other. We live in a world where hate and injustice often seem to go unpunished. We live in a world where innocent victims are shot, or run over, or blown up by a pressure cooker. We have grown weary of the phrase, “Our thoughts and prayers” when we know that prayer is important but this madness calls for resolute action. We have seen statements made by our own church leaders that witness to their frustration by saying simply: “I don’t know what to pray for or say right now.” We feel helpless and afraid and angry with our nation’s rhetoric and division around gun control and the embrace of hatred and violence and the lack of adequate mental health treatment in our communities. “How long O Lord” seems to be the right lament for the living of these days.
As leaders of our three Conferences we do not have easy answers or quick solutions. We feel the same frustration and anger that the cycle of violence in our country seems to never end. We do believe that the purpose for which we are joined together is to make this world more just, more loving and more compassionate. We do believe that our purpose is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We embrace the vision of the United Church of Christ that says, “United in Christ’s love, a just world for all.”
We weep with those who weep. We must work for change and address the systemic causes of violence in our world. We must call on our lawmakers to put into law sensible gun control and to provide stronger mental health resources. We must speak up against hatred and violence and xenophobia in all forms. We must not allow division and differences of opinion to divide us. We must speak the truth in love.
“How long, O Lord”
It’s not the Lord’s “fault” that we pose this question. The “how long” is how long will we be silent and thus complicit in the hate and violence that now engulfs our country.
“If not us, who? If not now, when?”
We are stronger together. Let us strengthen our resolve to love and action.
The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, Minister & President, Massachusetts Conference The Rev. Barbara Libby, Interim Conference Minister, Rhode Island Conference The Rev. Kent Siladi, Conference Minister, Connecticut Conference