August 27, 2018
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Once again, we are grieving with our community as we hear the reports of the shooting at The Landing in Jacksonville yesterday. It seems senseless that an event that was intended to be recreational and fun became so tragic and painful.
I give thanks for Pastors Ham and Vicki Hamilton, who shared their pastoral heart and leadership with their neighbors by providing St. John’s Lutheran Church as a space for prayer, grieving, anger and tears last evening. I know many of you were actively responding with your presence, with prayer, and with spirit-filled conversations. I give thanks for the first responders and the staff at the medical facilities that responded to and treated the wounded. And my heart breaks for the families of those who were killed, and for the brokenness and complexity in one person’s life that resulted in the shooter causing this chaos and then taking his own life.
As the shooting in Jacksonville is added to the list of mass shootings in our country, and even in our own community here in Florida, I am drawn even more deeply into our call to love and serve our neighbor. As we raise our voices in solidarity with those who are grieving, may we bring a word of hope and consolation. May our communities be spaces where those who are grieving, hurting, and struggling find healing. May our communities teach, model and encourage positive relationship and emotional health so that people are equipped to respond to anger and frustration. And may we be tireless in our pursuit of justice and peace in our cities and neighborhoods.
If you or your community are looking for resources on how to respond to community crisis and tragedy, I would direct you to the following:
- “A service of Prayer and Lament” developed by the ELCA Churchwide office in 2016 (available at http://www.elca.org/Resources/Worship)
- Lutheran Counseling Services web site (http://lcsfl.com/news-resources/resources.html) for resources on crisis and tragedy
- Additionally, I would remind you of the variety of social statements released by the ELCA to assist in the complex and complicated conversations around issues that are affecting our society. These are available at: http://www.elca.org/socialstatements.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to someone if you need to talk about your response to this and other acts of violence. As these events can trigger memories and wounds, please listen deeply to one another and invite opportunities for grief and prayer.
I ask you to join me in prayer.
O God, where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope. Where anxiety is infections and widening, grant peace and reassurance. Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance. Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing and illumination. Where spirits are daunted and weakened, grant soaring wings and strengthened dreams. All these things we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Pedro M. Suarez
Bishop, Florida-Bahamas Synod