It was just a week ago that the news of the Las Vegas concert mass shooting came upon us like a tidal wave – overwhelming and throwing life upside down. I had to double check – just seven days.
Early on Monday when a new day was dawning — the texts, the news, the emails, the phone calls streamed the non-stop horror and disbelief into our hearts and heads. It was hard to think and feel. Making decisions about how to take action seemed to be in slow motion.
I realized that I was aching in my flesh and gut – as though sharing a deep empathetic connection with all who were hurting and in anguish – at a distance but inside of me, too. I had slept well and at peace through the night when so many had died, and many others struggling for life, and so many had witnessed such horror. It felt wrong to be safe at home.
A text went out to my clergy colleagues – whoever would like to talk and pray and discern action, let’s meet at University UMC. When I arrived at the church, one pastor was already bowed in prayer in the dim chapel. Soon others arrived. It was asked — “how is it with your soul?” A question from our Wesleyan heritage. We talked and listened and prayed.
Through that day and into the night, our community and United Methodist connection meet in prayer and candle vigils because the community seeks to gather strength and hear hope in the midst of darkness. Our local United Methodist Churches opened their doors so folks could stop by at any time for prayer and conversation. They held prayer services for the whole community. We participated in community interfaith gatherings to show solidarity and unity.
Volunteers overwhelmed the blood bank. Hospitals were blessed with food and care for families who were holding vigil for loved ones caught in the gunfire. A ministry of presence, hope, and peace was given to the university campus which is so near to the shooting site.
Yet it doesn’t feel or seem like enough – the questions keep coming – How? Why? What can be done? When will such violence stop? The answers are not adequate. They seem empty, like the loss of life and safety and joy.
And then again comes the flicker of hope – on Thursday — the long scheduled Governor’s Points of Light Award banquet which honors volunteers for their community outreach efforts. Though at first, a time to celebrate did not seem fit, it was clearly the right thing to do. A dedicated lay minister of Advent UMC, Charlene Falkner, was a finalist and I was able to be present to support and cheer.
We need to cheer and encourage one another in being ambassadors of the Light in the dark corners of the world. We need to shine more brightly in the face of terror and hate. We cannot cower and shrink back, but we must show and live the passion of God’s mercy and grace for this world.
In the weeks to come, may the night of October 1st not fade into a memory, but may it inspire action to bring light in darkness and hope in despair. May we seek ways to prevent such heinous acts of violence. May we have conversations with friends in the faith at church and with neighbors next door, asking “how is it with your soul?” — “what do you think about gun safety and reasonable gun control and the right to bear arms?” — “tell me about what and who you hold dear and is precious in your life?” Such conversations nurture healthy relationships and can lead to recognizing and honoring the sacredness of life. These are questions and conversations for the courageous. Let us find our courage in Christ.
Stand as a Courageous Church: Loving like Jesus, Acting for Justice, and United in Hope.
Your Brother in Christ,
Pastor Dan Morley
Superintendent and Missional Strategist