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Special message from our Conference Minister
Dear PSEC Friends,
As the news broke yesterday about another school shooting so soon on the heels of last weekend’s deadly massacres, and I watched the death toll of children climb, I moved through a range of feeling from disbelief to profound sadness, to guilt-ridden hopelessness and then this morning, anger. I’ve asked Conference Consistory to begin discerning how we become meaningfully engaged in the work of addressing gun violence. And I want to share with you a reflection from my friend and Conference Minister colleague, Rev. Phil Hodson, of the South-Central Conference (Texas and west Louisiana) where yesterday’s shooting took place. His words touched my heart. I pray they strengthen yours.
I have four sons. The oldest graduates from 4th grade this week, the next is finishing his second-grade year. Disney movies are a tradition in our family, watching one together is a fairly regular occurrence. They have been enamored of late by the film “Encanto,” and there’s a song from the film called “Waiting on a Miracle,” that has been playing in my head tonight. I’ve been thinking about that song as I reflect on what happened today in Uvalde. As I write these words, it is being reported that 19 children and 2 teachers have lost their lives at the hands of an 18-year-old lone gunman in their classrooms at an elementary school. In the coming days, as you read these words, we may find those numbers change.
And I hear the cry of the Psalmist, “How long, O Lord?” How long will we continue to endure such horrific tragedy? We send thoughts and prayers, and as one who believes in the power of prayer, I recognize the import of it in ordinary things. But this is an extraordinary thing. A tragedy that happens just a week after another shooting in Buffalo, New York. A tragedy that is only overtaken by the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in New Town, CT — almost exactly ten years ago — in the sheer number of lives lost. I remember being invited to lead a time of prayer and conversation at the local elementary school where I was serving a church in Oklahoma just days after that shooting happened. And I remember quoting a beautiful line that somebody else wrote to open what I said, “The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels today…” And here we are again.
This morning I was at my own sons’ elementary school, watching my eldest give a speech on leadership as part of the awards ceremony for the 4th grade class. Yesterday I was there to hear my 8-year-old read an original poem he wrote for his own second-grade awards ceremony. Both times I simply walked in the door, signed a form, got a name-tag and proceeded to where I was supposed to be. And sat in an auditorium full of people I did not know — other parents and relatives — without a second glance. That’s one of the gifts of living in a free society — the ability to go where we please without fear.
But tonight, as I write these words, there is fear. The fear I experienced this afternoon as I stood outside and waited for my sons’ bus to arrive at the end of the driveway so that I could personally witness them coming back to me. Because my boys are the same ages as those 19 children who did not come home to their families tonight.
And crying out to God is not the answer. Because we only think we’re waiting for God to do something.
The reality is God is waiting for us to do something.
My son’s speech on leadership centered around three qualities he believes make a good leader: Responsibility, Accountability, and Communication. It seems to me that we, the church, have a role to play in situations like these when they arise. When chaos happens and there are no clear answers and lives are lost for no good reason. We are called to help people grieve. To help in mourning. To journey with those who suffer and offer the love and compassion and grace that may witness to the fact that joy will, someday, come again into their lives. We are the witnesses to resurrection, to the worst thing never being the last thing. As followers of Jesus we are responsible to communicate that message, accountable to the Divine for our so doing.
So, tonight, as I write these words listening to my children sleep nearby, I sure wish our leaders would lead. In Texas. Nationally. We don’t need their thoughts and prayers — we, the church, will take care of that on their behalf. We need them to lead. We need to hold them responsible to common sense legislation that will protect our children. We need to hold them accountable to getting it done — that’s what elections are for. And we need to communicate that message with clarity and determination.
Because sometimes, when we’re waiting on a miracle, we forget that the miracle is us. Let’s do something.
Rev. Phil Hodson
United Church of Christ
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