Statement on Gun Violence

Dear Friends in Christ, 

Today, we woke up to news of the third mass shooting in California in 2023. On January 16, a shooting in the Central Valley killed six people, including a teenage mother and her baby, in violence that authorities linked to gangs. On January 21, the Lunar New Year, a shooting at a ballroom dance hall in Monterey Park killed 11 people and injured nine others, impacting a mostly Asian-American clientele. The dance hall was regarded as a community center, and it was therefore a place of safety and joy for the neighborhood, which adds to the sense of grief for that community. And on Monday, a shooter in Half Moon Bay killed seven people at two businesses.  

I grieve. I grieve at the loss of life that cut short the lives of ordinary people living, working, and enjoying a lively hobby. I grieve at the sheer number of people who find violence against others to be the answer to their own misery. I grieve at a society that would produce angry perpetrators and allow them to obtain horrifyingly deadly weapons. I grieve that ordinary people cannot live day-to-day without fearing the kind of violence that erupts with alarming regularity in our country. I grieve that a joyful New Year’s celebration has turned into an occasion of dread of the continuing waves of violence that devastate people and destroy lives.  

I don’t know how to fix this problem.  

All I know is that we followers of Jesus are called to the Way of Love. Love is not a happy emotion, but rather a decision and a sacrifice that asks us to put the welfare of others before our own best interests. Love calls us to recognize, with Jesus in the Beatitudes in this Sunday’s gospel, that God’s blessing rests above all, not on the mighty, but on the meek, the merciful, and the mourners. Love requires us to stand with those who suffer, and work to transform our culture of death into a reverence for life.  

I ask you to pray for those who are victims of violence, for those who might be considering perpetrating violence on others, and for our culture of violence, that God’s love may work to bring life and transformation into all places of hopelessness and hatred.  

And I ask all our congregations, during this Year of Service, to go out into your neighborhoods. Get to know your neighbors. Learn about their hopes, needs, and frustrations. Discover how you can serve and love your communities. Build relationships with the people around you, and help to grow a kinder, more understanding world.   

And pray. Pray for the victims, for the perpetrators, and for our society. Pray for an end to gun violence. Pray for God’s kingdom to shine more brightly through us. Pray that Christ will show us how to show up faithfully in our world and bring peace.  

Educational, Advocacy, and Other Resources on Gun Violence: https://bishopsagainstgunviolence.org/resources/other-resources/ 

Liturgical Resources: https://bishopsagainstgunviolence.org/resources/liturgical-resources/  

O God who remembers, we hold before you all who have died from the plague of gun violence in our land. We remember those who have taken their lives with a gun, those who have died in school shootings and mass shootings, those who have died from gun violence fueled by anger, by abuse, by accident, by domestic violence, or by crime. We lift our voices in sorrow and frustration knowing that every life is infinitely valuable to you. Receive all who have died into the arms of your mercy, bless those who mourn with the hope of eternal life, and strengthen our hearts and our arms to bring an end to this scourge. This we pray in the name of the one who overcame the power of death, your son, Jesus Christ. Amen. 

In Christ’s Name, 

Bishop Susan Brown Snook