A call to Prayer & Action
“Our thoughts and prayers are not enough,” said President Obama. “It’s not enough.”
President Obama shared these remarks last Thursday, responding to the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College (UCC) in Roseburg, Oregon where 9 were shot dead by a student who then killed himself . That speech marked the 15th time during Barack Obama’s presidency when a mass shooting in the United States would necessitate his response. When he said thoughts and prayers were not enough, his frustration was obvious. He wanted more than just compassion; he wanted change.
The stunning violence of yet one more mass shooting in this country left many of us shaken to the core. According to some statistics, it was the 142nd school shooting since the tragedy in Newtown less than three years ago, the 45th school shooting just this year. The statistics on mass shootings in general in our country are astounding. Movie theaters, schools, military facilities, and churches…. It seems no place is safe; some count as many as one mass shooting per day in the United States so far this year. Add to this the violence that happens daily on our streets and in private homes, largely under the radar of the media, and it is clear: a culture of violence grips our nation that must be confronted and changed.
So are our thoughts and prayers enough?
I’m sure many of us lifted our prayers to God this past Sunday for the victims of the violence in Oregon and for the community left reeling in the aftermath. And that is as it should be. As communities of faith, we rightly believe in the power of prayer to rush healing, love, and a measure of comfort to places and people torn apart when the unimaginable happens. We pray for God’s presence and power because we place our trust in a God whose peace passes all our understanding and whose wisdom is infinitely greater than our own. And we pray because we ourselves remember those times when the prayers of others meant so much to us when we were the ones in need.
The question is not whether we should bother to pray for the Roseburg, Oregon community. Of course we should and we will do so. The question is whether that is the only response we as faith communities can have.
I have always believed and it has been my personal experience that the Church can in fact be an influential leader in a movement for social change. And our scriptures make it very clear that our faith compels us to engage in the world in a way that builds compassion and justice. So I invite you to consider these additional ways of responding to what happened at Umpqua Community College as part of your ministry, your contribution to building a movement for change:
- Participate in the MN Faith Summit to Prevent Gun Violence on November 12 in Minneapolis.
- Participate in the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath December 10-14 of this year, or at another time of your choosing. Resources and ideas for your congregation are available. (A project of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence)
- Preach about our society’s culture of violence and highlight scriptural texts that call us to create a culture of peace and mutual love.
- Offer a book study or other educational opportunity that allows members to dive more deeply into a discussion about our nation’s “culture of violence”.
- Write letters or plan visits to our Senators and Congress persons. Let them know you care about these issues and share your perspective as people of faith.
- Provide safe space to your congregation’s children and youth to talk about their own response to events like those in Oregon and to talk about violence they observe or experience in their own lives (e.g. bullying, video games, television, etc). Help them imagine peaceful, constructive ways of navigating difficulties in their own lives.
- Convene leaders from the faith, school, business, and government sectors in your community to discuss issues of violence in your own community and to develop an environment of mutual support and caring.
You will add your own wonderful ideas to these I’ve listed. Let me know how you decide to act! And one other thing: keep praying.
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister