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Pastoral Message on the Uvalde, TX school shooting

Prayers for the teachers who face their children today, to reassure them. The Children’s fears are many and very real. May the teachers find the right words to help the children cope and feel safe.

Prayers for the parents who are initially reassuring their children and then following through with fears children will have. May they find the right words. And love them.

And prayers for the families of Uvalde, Texas, for the unspeakable grief they must feel, individually and as a community. May they find comfort, and may they feel God’s love, Amen.

Beloved Epworth,

The prayer above is from Katie Johnson, one of our many resident educators, herself a retired elementary school teacher who is still active in volunteering with elementary students. These words that came to her this morning in meditation as she sought peace and guidance in the wake of another tragic school shooting. Our hearts are heavy with grief and outrage as the pain in our collective body grows.

When we imagine six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds, images of smiling small faces, with too-big backpacks and loose teeth should fill our minds, not images of violence and suffering. But now, 19 precious lives are lost. Such promise, such innocence. Taken. Violently. Gone. Worlds forever changed. Our first impulse can be to turn inward and look for security in self-isolating and blaming and reactively protecting.

But if there's one lesson from tragedies like this (and there are many more lessons than just one), it's that the more we normalize violence by turning away from it or thinking we can just control it, the less secure we become. In the over 20 years since Columbine and 9/11, we've installed hundreds of thousands of metal detectors in schools and airports, profile persons of color and from other countries, and have traumatized our own children with our fear. But we haven't stopped the proliferation of first-person shooter video games, we haven't significantly addressed the reality that the line between military and police has become blurred, and we haven't taken away the guns. We say it’s “their” fault. In so many ways, we perpetuate an us vs. them mentality that accepts our helplessness, denies our interconnectedness, and allows these tragedies to proliferate.

And while President Biden's response and leadership in creating policy that responds to the roots of violence matters, I hope we don't resort to relying on our elected officials as the only solution to the issue.

We all have a role to play in healing this wound and transforming the way we live with each other. We must not allow cynicism and frustration or polarized thinking to keep us from acting.

The principles of nonviolence are these:

  • Us vs. Them thinking is a distortion of reality

  • Violence begets violence

  • Fear is an accelerant to violence

  • We all have a piece of the truth and the untruth

  • The infinite relatedness of all life must be acknowledged, repaired and transformed

  • Nonviolent living is a way of life for courageous people

My hope is that as a community, as a society and as a culture we can move toward nonviolence.

The answers and the path are not easy. For the next days and weeks, we will grieve the terrible loss of beautiful precious lives and know that in the loss of these lives, a piece of each of us has died. But when the pain and recoil start to fade as they always do in the American consciousness, we must act, daily, hourly, to change the way that we live together.

Just this week, Church Council engaged a conversation about addressing gun violence as we wrestled with a response to the racially motivated shooting in Buffalo, New York that took the lives of ten African American persons, and the shooting in Laguna Woods in a Taiwanese congregation. In the past, Rev. Debbie Weatherspoon has spoken of her work with Moms Demand Action East Bay, and the Moms have tabled at Epworth to share what they are doing and invite Epworth’s participation.

As we grieve the lives that have been lost, let’s also recommit ourselves to action.

May peace and courage be with us, Pastor Kristin


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