As I write, 18 children and one teacher have been reported dead at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas after yet another school shooting. The anguish, trauma, and fear of students, parents, and teachers touched by this violence is unimaginable. Today’s shooting affects young children, who have the right to grow up safe and protected in their schools. Our hearts break for the innocence lost, the precious lives that will never be lived, and the families who will likely experience overwhelming grief for years to come. It’s almost impossible to overstate the sorrow that many of us feel in knowing that our country has experienced yet another horrifying act of violence, this time against children.
Only last week, I issued a statement lamenting the deaths of people in the supermarket shooting in Buffalo, New York, an act of violence motivated by racial hatred. In that statement, I said:
As followers of Jesus, we are heartbroken and in anguish for these latest acts of senseless and unspeakable violence. And so, we pray. We pray for the eleven dead and their loved ones, we pray for the wounded and their families, we pray for the witnesses and the survivors, we pray for the first responders, we pray for the officials who must deal with the aftermath, we pray for the people of Buffalo, New York and Laguna Woods, California, we pray for the perpetrator and his family, and we pray for this nation.
Now we add prayers for the people of Uvalde, Texas, whose lives will never be the same.
But, as I said last week, as followers of Jesus, we also know that prayer—while critically needed—is not enough on its own. We who do our best to follow Jesus’s command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and who recognize that Jesus said that the smallest and weakest among us should be our highest priority, should work and advocate to protect the vulnerable.
Of course, our Constitution allows Americans to keep and bear arms. But I believe that reasonable regulation of firearms would go far to protect innocent children from the violence that seems so rampant in our society. Bishops United Against Gun Violence (BUAGV), a group of Episcopal bishops of which I am a member, suggests limitations such as:
In addition to addressing the responsible use of firearms, I believe our country needs to address the community crisis that leads so many people to commit such horrifying acts of violence. The plague of gun violence is a peculiarly American phenomenon. I believe we must build stronger communities that discover and help people who are tempted to violence before their temptations are put into action. I am proud of the work done by many of our churches to support children and families, as well as Episcopal organizations such as our diocese’s Episcopal Community Services, which works so hard to improve the lives of children, adults, those with addictions and mental illnesses, and those without homes in our community. May our church always support healing and reconciliation in our community, supporting all persons to become stronger and more whole, and giving them the help they need to flourish, as we follow Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. May all Christians work always for healthy and safe communities for all God’s people.
I invite you to pray with me now, in a prayer that is partly adapted from “A Prayer for our Nation in the Midst of Mass Shootings” on the BUAGV website:
Almighty and most merciful God, we come to you with heavy hearts and troubled minds after the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. We bring before you all the children and adults who are innocent victims of this senseless and malicious act of evil. May the souls of all these innocent victims, through God’s mercy, find eternal safety and rest. We pray for all who are hospitalized, some still in critical condition. We lift all families who are facing grief and turmoil, and we place them into your loving arms. Please support parents who face inconsolable grief, as well as teachers and students who are traumatized by what they experienced.
We give thanks for all first responders, especially the police officers who risked their lives as they intervened to save lives. We praise you for the provision of medical specialists in the times and places where they were most needed. We bring before you the leaders of the cities and towns who will gather citizens together for peace, unity and strength.
We implore your divine help, O God, for our nation at this time. We pray that law enforcement officials will have the resources they need to protect, and to remain vigilant. We pray for our legislators to commit to sensible policies and laws regarding the ownership and use of guns, and that they also will provide resources for better mental health diagnosis and treatment. We pray that our President will provide compassionate and clear leadership to heal our national soul.
Finally, we pray for people who are tempted to inflict such harm on others. We pray for perfect mercy and justice and, for those who still are alive, for repentance. We ask you to bring healing and a new heart to any person who might be contemplating such acts in the future, so that all may live in safety and security. We pray in particular for children, the smallest and most vulnerable among us, that they may be protected and grow up in safety and security. We ask you to bring peace, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Prince of Peace. Amen.
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