On Saturday morning, a man with hate in his heart entered a Jewish synagogue and shot and killed people of faith gathered together to worship a God of love. It is hard to know what to say in the face of such a horrific act committed in a sacred place of peace.
While I am sorry that I was not here on Sunday to worship with you, I am glad that Rev. Jean Henderson was leading worship and read the names of each of the eleven people who died, and rang the church bell, in remembrance and in commitment to do what we can as people of faith to end hatred and violence with our justice and love.
Rev. Sheldon Sorge, General Presbyter of Pittsburgh Presbytery, along with denominational leaders in Pittsburgh, made the following statement:
We weep with our Jewish siblings in faith whose lives, families, and community have been shredded by a fusillade of bullets emanating from venomous bigotry. To the congregations of the Tree of Life synagogue, and all our beloved friends in the Pittsburgh Jewish community, we extend our deepest love and solidarity, with prayers for comfort and justice. We honor brave law enforcement officers and first responders who stepped into harm’s way to save others. We reject and denounce as evil every word and action that vilifies any faith or ethnic community, for any reason. We call upon all members of our congregations, together with all others of good will, to repair the breach that sunders our community. Confessing together that the Lord is One, we commit ourselves to love the Lord with all our heart and strength by loving our neighbors, without exception.
Rev. Sorge wrote in his letter to the Presbytery: The outpouring of sorrow in our community has been abundant, nurturing a surging resolve to do all in our power to rid our country of the ongoing scourge of hate-filled mass shootings of innocents, especially in houses of worship. This shooting, along with most mass shootings, was enabled by the use of a rapidly repeating assault rifle, which our presbytery has publicly called for legislators to ban.
At a time of such devastating trauma in our neighborhood, how we speak of this with our children is critically important. Dr. Sharon Carver, a professor of child development at Carnegie Mellon University and a deacon at the First United Presbyterian Church of Crafton Heights, has prepared a wonderful resource to guide parents and church leaders as they speak with children about this dreadful event. Other resources for speaking with children about this tragedy are available from UPMC and NEXT Pittsburgh.
Here is a prayer that I invite us to pray together throughout these painful days of grieving and healing:
Lord, we know your power, your promises and your presence, but on days like today when your chosen people are gunned down in your holy house we question everything we thought we knew about you, about humanity, about ourselves. How can such hate fester and plot, destroy and kill? How can those created in your image and called good commit such horrendous acts? How have we gotten to this place? Where do we go from here?
Lord, help us. Help us rise up and resist evil with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Help us confront the hate within and without that is overtaking our land. Comfort, O comfort your people, Lord. We beg for an outpouring of compassion and love to overwhelm the scourge of violence besetting our communities.
May we relentlessly speak up for and reach out to our Jewish brothers and sisters and all of those reeling in fear as they simply go about their daily living. Grant us the courage, the will and the stamina to live every day with faith, hope, mercy, kindness and justice until crying and mourning and death and hate are no more. We pray in the name of our Savior, a Jewish man from Nazareth, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Amen.
Prayer by Jill Duffield reprinted with permission from Presbyterian Outlook