It is about domestic violence.
It is about mental health.
It is about gun legislation.
It is about the brokenness of our human condition, the evil that enslaves us, and God’s never-failing call to come back, come Home, come and be healed.
The shooting event in Sutherland Springs that took place on Sunday morning was another act of violence in our country- this time against a small community of a people that, in the span of a few minutes, lost 26 of their family and friends and saw 20 others wounded. The entire community was spiritually wounded by this assault- an attack that took place in a church, known as a place of sanctuary and peace. Pray for the souls of the departed, that they rest in peace and that those who mourn are comforted.
In the aftermath of an event like this, we grieve, and we look for ways to prevent similar tragedies. Solutions that look for increased gun control, mental health care, and veterans’ healthcare are all important as we find ways to strengthen our society’s response to evil and disease. America is called upon, now, to do this work- in our legislature and in social agencies across our country- as we create and fund programs to bind up those who are broken. We are also called to give preventative instruction and education to our children who, in their formative years, need to learn measures of appropriate self-care.
The tragedy at Sutherland Spring’s First Baptist Church is the 307th mass shooting (an event where more than 4 people are shot) this year in America. (gunviolencearchive.org)
Unless we begin to do something differently, another incident is just around the corner.
The spiritual call is for us to pray for God’s grace and light to fill those who are overcome with despair, that they may find healing and hope and turn away from violent acts. We can pray for those who do the work of healing in clinics and doctor’s offices, in therapy and treatment programs: pray for their strength, wisdom and success. We can pray for families, that they be sources of companionship, love and support. We can pray for our children, that they learn healthy ways of managing stress, conflict and anger. And we can pray for ourselves, that God will strengthen us and use us as agents of God’s healing love.
The prophetic call is ours, too. We need to reach out to our legislators to call for adequate healthcare programs that treat mental illness, to curb the availability of assault rifles on our streets, to find ways to assist veterans in their return home, and to assure that they are treated with dignity and respect and get the support that they need. This is the job of politics, and it is our call as the baptized to appeal to our legislators in the name of social justice to create a country where we can live peacefully and without fear. The social ills that plague us: poverty, racism, gender discrimination, homelessness and addiction, to name some of the more egregious, all contribute to the fraying of our social fabric; it is, indeed, our responsibility to make our needs and the needs of our neighbors known to those who govern and shape our country and to work towards constructive solutions. That is our duty as citizens, and also as Christians.
Because of my faith, I live in hope. I believe that the trials that we suffer here on earth are part of an Order in which we, as God’s beloved, have been made “lower than angels,” (Hebrews 2:7) and, yet, given great responsibility to strive for reconciliation and restoration. Our call is to use our God given gifts for wholeness. We also hope, knowing by faith, that we shall be restored in the fullness of time, looking to the saving act of Jesus’ Resurrection to show us the power of God’s love for humankind. This hope and God’s love will make all things new. Of this, I am certain. By this, my life is dedicated to God.
+In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Rt. Rev. Audrey C. Scanlan
The Episcopal Diocese of Central PA
7 thoughts on “Sutherland Springs, TX”
Thank you for putting into words what at this point I have had no words for.
Kate, I don’t know if there are any words that are adequate; I feel a sense of responsibility to reach out to our people- any people- who are as stunned by this as I am, to find hope in the power of God to make all things new, and to imbue in us a sense of responsibility to take care of each other and our society.
I thank you as well. I am most grateful for the encouragement to be in prayer, as I have both read and heard verbally that prayer is not what is needed at this time. I answered that no human power could separate me from being in prayer, in communion, with the God who formed me and the Christ who saved me and the Spirit who calls me to listen and to see. I cannot possibly be Jesus’ person in our broken world, use any gift of my broken self when all gifts are from Him without seeking unceasing what He calls me to do and be and say.
On Sunday, in a Zoom conference with Kate Harrigan and other beloved friends, we talked of emerging gifts and I mentioned courage. I need courage in every moment of every day to remind me I have responsibility. Responsibility to listen respectfully to the opposing view, to be in conversations that are difficult and pain-filled, to model Love when hate looms large, to model the joy and hope we want others to share with us in His promises and His grace so His never-failing love becomes and stays real in their lives. Without constant prayer, I am nothing and cannot fight the darkness. And so I will pray for courage for us all as we step forward into the work that must be done. Amen, alleluia!
Prayer sustains us. ( I know it sustains me) and is an undergirding for action and ministry. It is not an either/or… but a both/and!
I respectfully disagree, Bishop, with your call to “appeal to our legislators . . . in the name of social justice.” There are many different views of appropriate legislative policy (I’m not going to deconstruct your views here) and “social justice” is a vague, undefined concept.
Don’t get the Episcopal Church immirred in public policy debates. They are not as one-sided as you may think. Stick to what the Church does best: prayer. Let’s pray for ourselves, all inclusively, to become worthy of God.
In the meantime, I will be appealing to our legislators, but not as a matter of Christian doctrine, to take concrete steps to deal with violence-provoking mental illness, Islamic fundamentalism, drug turf wars etc. My preferred remedies may not be yours.
Thank you for your comment and for sharing your disagreement with me in this forum. I appreciate your response. While we do disagree about the place of the Church in public policy, I am glad that we can hold our own ideas and still come to the Table. I was trying to suggest that the Church can have a voice, not as matters of doctrine, per se, but on various social issues that impact all of us. The Church at the General level has a history of making declarative statements and taking positions on various social issues (General Convention resolutions). Besides that, I was hoping to invite individuals to see their own personal actions as informed by their faith. Action connected to faith, and sustained in prayer. Thank you again for replying to the post.
‘What explains Mass Murders in the US’, was the name of an article a few days ago in the NYTimes.
It points out the enormous number of weapons in the hands of folks in our country, and the enormous number of mass murders in our country. The article then compares these to numbers in other countries. No other place has so many of both, guns and mass murders as our beloved America.