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In response to the recent attacks in New York and Texas
“I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help, but give me relief!’ You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’” (Lamentations 3:55-57)
Last weekend, we were reminded once again of how evil and violence break into our homes, our communities, our neighborhoods, and even into our churches. We mourn and we grieve for those who lost their lives in New York last week and in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday.
Violence exists every day in too many communities in our country and world. However, these public tragedies often raise in us poignant questions about how we should respond, personally and collectively.
As it pertains to safety in our churches, I have shared below a note from our bishop about how United Methodists over time have chosen to respond. With her words are several links from United Methodist churches and other resources related to how congregations and individuals are responding to the violence around our country. Please take a moment to read Bishop Hope’s words.
I also met with all of our pastors on Tuesday afternoon, asking them to prayerfully consider how we might best work alongside one another and our congregational leadership teams to respond to violence in both crisis and long-term situations. Our staff teams have been asked to review our Sunday morning and weekday safety procedures to ensure we all know those procedures and how they are being communicated with volunteers. Finally, we have reached out to the police department for recommendations related to our local communities and are reviewing the guidance from FEMA and other church resources for church preparedness.
This weekend in worship, we return to Lamentations to ask with Jerusalem how we learn to lament the loss of the “good old days.” This week, one aspect of the “good old days” we lament is the days when these mass tragedies were not seemingly regular occurrences. Part of learning the lost art of lament is learning to not only grieve what is no longer but anticipate the possibility that God might be preparing to create new things in us and in our world.
Finally, one of the most important things for God’s people to do in response to tragedy is to gather. Next Friday, Nov. 17, our church family is invited to come to The Peak (1200 N. Salem St.) at 7 p.m. for an Evening of Lament and Hope. During this service, we will share God’s Word, go to God in prayer, cry out in song, and receive holy communion. I am extremely thankful for a space where we might collectively go to God to lament the personal and collective grief we share and look forward in hope for the future of our community, our families, and our world.
Thank you for your continued prayers for one another, for our church, and for all those who are experiencing the results of brokenness, evil, and sin. May God’s peace overwhelm us and God’s strength lead us to be vehicles of change.
Lead Pastor, Apex UMC Family
FROM BISHOP HOPE MORGAN WARD
North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church
Dear United Methodist friends,
Grieved afresh by the horrific violence Sunday morning in First Baptist Church, I asked colleague bishops in our Council of Bishops covenant group this morning for wisdom and help. How do we respond faithfully to encourage and protect those who gather for worship, prayer, learning, and service?
An African colleague bishop offered this perspective: “In our country, it always takes courage to go to church for worship. All Christians are targets of violence.”
In the United States, we have assumed safety and comfort as Christians. We are stunned by the idea of a dangerous world. It is painful to see terrorism, most recently in Las Vegas, New York, and Texas.
Do we demand security, perhaps even armed guards in our churches?
Our church suggests not. United Methodist churches are declared gun-free zones in our Social Principles.
This conviction is rooted not in naïveté. It is rooted in the deep conviction that God calls us to create better ways forward. Together, let us explore these better ways. The links below will be helpful to you as you lead in your church and community.
With gratitude to God for the life we share in Christ who said: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”
Hope Morgan Ward
Resources from UMC.org & UM Communications
- Embracing Love: Responding to Violence (UMCOM)
- Ten suggestions for preaching after a catastrophe (UMCOM)
- Keeping Churches Safe and Welcoming (UMC)
- Ways United Methodists can take a stand against gun violence (UMC)
- A United Methodist Prayer: Turning to God in Days of Trouble (UMC)
- After Texas church shooting, here’s the question we should ask
- Why church shootings don’t intimidate the Church (The Washington Post)