My siblings in Christ,
Earlier this evening, we learned that an act of unspeakable violence was committed in Richmond today. As the students, parents, and staff of Huguenot High School gathered to celebrate their graduating seniors, two persons – at least one with a gun – broke onto the scene, shooting a number of those present. Suddenly, a day that should have been nothing but a joyful time of life transition has become a day that has shattered multiple lives.
For this, I grieve deeply. For the pandemic of violence that has taken hold of our culture, I grieve deeply. For the senselessness of it all, I grieve deeply. And, for all of this, I pray for the peace that comes only from God – I pray for God’s peace to descend powerfully on all of us – and especially upon the family and friends of those who were shot or who were in the line of fire today.
What we know about the event will change over the coming hours and days. But what will not change is the love that God has for us. What will not change is the love that God has for those who were shot or otherwise wounded. What will not change is the love that God has for those who are weeping at this very moment.
Jesus himself understands all of these things, and he stands by us as we work through our emotion. And, he stands by us as we move forward from this day and call for action to stop such a horrific event from ever happening again.
The shooting happened not far from Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Richmond. I have been in conversation with the Associate Rector, Paul Evans, and he tells me he is in conversation with the appropriate persons at the parish. They are in the early stages of planning a service of prayer, as well as offering the church as a resource to the community in other ways. We will provide more information on all of this as we have it.
But for now, I would like to offer the following prayer, and invite these words to soak our hearts and souls as we lift this tragedy – and the lives of those involved – up to God. It was written by Bridget Kerr of the Charlotte Congregational Church of the UCC, and is entitled A Prayer for Compassion and Action.
“Gracious Holy One, we gather here because we are facing an unknown future with persistent and deep suffering from gun violence. It is hard to know where to turn so that voices of peace, understanding and compassion might be heard. We find it difficult to listen to each other. When gun shots ring out in our schools, movie theaters, shopping malls, churches, streets, and homes, hearts are broken. Lives are shattered. Souls that are taken from us cannot be returned, and we are left diminished as a human family. Violence done to one person is violence done to all. But we know that your spirit of compassion, mercy and dignity travels through all of time. You watch over us even when we feel more than slightly lost. Within our reach is the goodness, promise and dreams that are your dreams. Remind us when we falter that love ultimately wins. Comfort us when we mourn with the assurance that life is bigger than that which we call death. Provoke in us the determination to keep trusting in the future so that together we find a way to listen, to address those things that need to be addressed and to respect the dignity of all human beings. This we hold up before you knowing the good you intend for us.”
May God bless you all this night, and in all the days to come.