A pastoral word in the wake of mass shootings

Dear Church,

This is not the letter I hoped to write to you today.

Last night, nineteen children, and two adults were gunned down at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Our hearts are shattered. We wail, and it seems there is little consolation. We cry peace, peace, but there is no peace.

“A voice was heard in #Uvalde, wailing and loud lamentation, parents weeping for their children; they refused to be consoled, because the children are no more.” -Edited from Matthew 2:18.

We are reminded that lament is a profoundly Biblical practice. One that is modeled for us over and over in our sacred texts. It is an essential in our spiritual lives.

We encourage you to make space in your communities for grief and lament in the coming days. We know already there are congregations gathering tonight to light candles, and ring church bless. Our denominational leaders are praying and speaking into this moment. There has been precious little space to pause together, and we cannot, we must not turn away from the grief of this moment. A reminder if you are planning to read the names of the victims to ensure their names are pronounced correctly. The majority of victims were members of the Latinx community, and it is essential we not commit further violence or erasure in our remembrance.

We have said it before and we will say it again. Gun violence is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is inextricably tied to the sins of white Christian nationalism, and racism.

Last weekend, a gunman walked into a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, NY armed with an AR-15 rifle, and tactical gear. He recorded himself on a killing spree, gunning down 13 people. Eleven of them were Black.  Gun violence is a public health crisis, an epidemic, and a profound moral issue for people of faith.  The work of dismantling racism wherever we might encounter it is not optional for us.

For today:

Be silent if you need to.

To quote our friend and colleague, the Rev. Laura Everett, “Each heart breaks along different fault lines.”

In the coming days, we will share resources, next steps, and actions you might take (including work against gun violence happening here in NH).  Today, we encourage you to pray in whatever way you most need, and also to act (in whatever small way you feel moved to do so). Action prevents despair, and roots us in hope. The world needs your witness of hope now more than it ever has.

Yours in Christ+,

Rev. Heidi