Prayers for Sutherland Springs

Categories: Bishop's Column,Disaster Response,News

Over the past few weeks, Bob Dylan’s song keeps coming to mind:

Yes, and how many deaths will it take ’till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

How many people must die of gun violence before something changes?

Mourners participate in a candlelight vigil for the victims of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. AP Photo by Darren Abate

Mourners participate in a candlelight vigil for the victims of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. AP Photo by Darren Abate

We’re reeling once again—this time from a shooting in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Most of the people in the church were shot and over half killed. I envision so many rural churches across all the places I have served in Ohio, Minnesota, and Illinois, and also my own home church, where that could have so easily happened. I can’t imagine and yet I do.

This time it feels personal—in a church during a worship service. As clergy and lay leaders in the church, we feel responsible to keep people safe…like school administrators after Sandy Hook and the theater management after the Aurora, CO shooting.  How do we keep people safe? In workplaces like in San Bernadino, CA.? Or places where people are just having a good time like Orlando or Las Vegas?

What should or can you and your church do about protecting yourselves and each other? Should you have armed guards?  Locked doors during worship? Or other means of barring yourselves away from the world? I think it’s a worthy conversation at a church council meeting to make sure that you are alert and aren’t unnecessarily vulnerable but United Methodist churches are declared gun-free zones in our Book of Resolutions. Recently, UMTV produced a story on a Boise, Idaho church which holds a Safe Church Summit. Click here to watch

FEMA also has a guide of emergency operation plans for houses of worship which has helpful information for churches across Northern Illinois. Access the guide by clicking here.

In addition to thinking about our safety, we also need to think about advocacy.  Almost 80% of Americans want reasonable gun regulations. The article “Ways United Methodists can take a stand against gun violence” on the United Methodist website is a good discussion guide. Click to read more.

We live in a world that isn’t completely safe but we are called to be people who trust in God and refuse to live in a cowering, fearful way.  So most importantly I hope that you will reflect on this verse with me:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

Since there is no ultimate safety or security in this life, let us take courage and could we at least be kinder and gentler with each other on the journey? 

My prayers are for all who have been victims of gun violence—in our communities as well as Sutherland Springs, TX.  I pray that these violent events make us more merciful and peacemakers.

~Bishop Sally Dyck

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