A pastoral message:
Twice in one week. Wednesday, a man walked into a Walmart in Thornton, CO and randomly began shooting, killing three people. And on Sunday, another tragedy, as a person with a history of violence opened fire at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 27 people, and wounding many more. These, on top of the Las Vegas shooting of last month, the Charlottesville White Supremacist violence and countless other acts of random violence in these past few months. This week, we’ve experienced them escalating in frequency, closer to our own back yards, and in a house of worship.
When I think about all the individual trauma these violent events incited, and the national and even international fear being created by hate crimes and random acts of violence, my heart hurts. It feels like we humans are fraying at our edges. There are so many places to point the finger — access to guns, lack of access to mental health support, the rise of divisiveness and intolerance, increased isolation, . . . but no one single answer to this complex problem of the escalating violence in this country and around the world.
The frequency of these events, their proximity, and that this last one was during a Sunday service may increase feelings of fear or anxiety in you. You may have subtle feelings of dis-ease, or full-on crippling fear that limits your activities. Take care of yourself. Reach out to others, including a mental health professional or me, if it just feels too hard to handle alone. I also have a list of referrals for therapists I can offer you.
As a congregation, we seek to balance an open embrace of welcome with attention to the safety of everyone in our building. The best safety measures are largely invisible, and even simple increased awareness of unusual behavior can prevent harm. Carol Pranschke, our office manager, has been working on congregational safety measures for some time, and I am grateful to her and members Noreen Walsh and Elisabeth Kern and others who have been working with her. The Board already had the creation of a “Preparedness Team” on its agenda for tonight’s Board meeting. And our Building Committee will be incorporating design measures that improve safety into the new building. Please let Carol know if you have interest in working in this area of congregational safety.
I believe that violence is a desperate manifestation of fear and a sign of disconnection from community and Love. The Fellowship provides a home to calm our weary souls and give us courage to continue to do the work of caring and of justice in our world. May our community be a beacon of hope in these challenging times.