The First Monday in Lent – President’s Day
I am truly sad – but not without hope, over yet another mass shooting in one of our schools, this time in Parkland, Florida. To raise our awareness, I am posting the recent statement from the group, Bishops United Against Gun Violence. "Bishops United" is an association of approximately 70 bishops of The Episcopal Church.
With 28 mass shootings in schools across the country since January 2018 (1.5 months!), we do not concede that such tragedies can ever be permitted to lapse into “routine.” For starters – I hope each of us would really ponder this issue, not dismiss it as someone else’s problem, and see if we have some role to play in moving forward to improve our collective safety.
Like many of you, I am so impressed by the very courageous and compelling response from the students at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. This is not an easy issue, as our nation tries to come to terms with the persistent reality of gun violence besetting our social fabric. But for these teens, who were attacked, they now have clarity. Even in their pain, God is no doubt, already redeeming some of the loss – by giving them voice and stirring our hearts. May these lives sacrificed be the seed and catalyst for real change. Perhaps this is the watershed moment for America in re-evaluating our relationship with assault rifles again. How might we protect our right to bear arms, and at the same time, protect our children; ourselves? My spirit is expectant… Can this particular shooting help us turn a corner toward humility and consensus? We can certainly pray (and we have), but it is my hope that we will do more. Read what our Bishops say – and then let’s see how the Spirit of God moves us in reflection, action and advocacy. Ultimately - we are all connected.
Your Sister in Christ,
Rector, St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church
Bishops United Urges Assault Weapons Ban, Prayers of Lamentation
The heart of our nation has been broken yet again by another mass shooting at an American school.
We offer our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those who were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. We mourn with particular sorrow Carmen Schentrup, a 16-year-old student at the school and leader in the youth group at St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs, who died at the hands of the gunman. We pledge to work with the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida to lend whatever material and spiritual comfort we can to all those who have suffered such a devastating loss.
The phrase "thoughts and prayers" has been devalued by politicians whose prayers seem never to move them to act against their self-interests or the interests of the National Rifle Association. Yet, as Christians, we believe deeply in the power of prayer to console, to sustain and to heal, but also to make evident the work that God is calling us to do. We pray that all who have been touched by this violent act receive God's healing and solace.
In the wake of this massacre, we believe God is calling us to understand that we must not simply identify the social and political impediments to ending these lethal spasms of violence in our country. We must reflect on and acknowledge our own complicity in the unjust systems that facilitate so many deaths, and, in accordance with the keeping of a holy Lent, repent and make reparations.
Specifically, we ask you, members of our church and those who ally yourselves with us, to:
- Contact your elected representatives and ask them to support legislation banning assault weapons such as the AR-15, which is the gun used in most of the recent mass shootings in our country; high-capacity magazines; and bump stocks, the equipment used by the killer in the Las Vegas massacre that allows semiautomatic weapons to fire dozens of rounds in seconds. We understand that mass shootings account for a small percentage of the victims of gun violence; that far more people are killed by handguns than by any kind of rifle; that poverty, misogyny and racism contribute mightily to the violence in our society and that soaring rates of suicide remain a great unaddressed social challenge. And yet, the problem of gun violence is complex, and we must sometimes address it in small pieces if it is not to overwhelm us. So, please, call your members of Congress and insist that your voice be heard above those of the National Rifle Association's lobbyists.
- Participate in a service of a lamentation for the victims of the Parkland shooting and all victims of lethal gun violence. We will be announcing a schedule of such services at churches around the country in the near future. To keep up with these plans, please follow our Facebook page Episcopalians Against Gun Violence.
- Enter into a period of discernment with us about how, through prayer, advocacy and action, we can make clear to our elected representatives that they must vote in the interests of all Americans, including law-abiding gun owners, in passing life-saving, common sense gun policies. Visit our website to learn more about our work and how to reach us. And if you plan to attend this summer's General Convention in Austin, Texas, plan to join us each morning for prayer outside the convention hall and to attend the Bishops United Against Gun Violence public witness on Sunday, July 8 at 9 a.m.