Leaders of U.S. churches at the national, regional and local levels expressed shock and grief while urging prayers for the families of victims of the mass shooting in Connecticut on Friday. Some also called for action to combat gun violence.
A shooter identified by police as Adam Lanza, 20, killed 26 people on Friday, inlcuding 20 children and six women at Sandy Hook Elementary, in Newtown, Connecticut officials said.
Among the denominations releasing statements were the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), American Baptist Churches (U.S.A.) the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, The Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church in America, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America. The president of the National Council of Churches U.S.A. also issued a statement.
Below is a compilation of statements:
United Methodist Church
Bishop Deborah Lieder-Kiesey, Michigan Episcopal Area
Bishop Kiesey urges prayer for Newton, Conn.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. -- John 1:5
This upcoming Friday marks the Winter Solstice, the moment in the northern hemisphere when we experience the longest day of darkness during the year. For many of us, Friday, December 14, will instead feel like the darkest day of 2012. It was on this quiet Friday morning, in a quaint town in Connecticut, that a young man wearing combat gear and armed with multiple weapons walked into an elementary school and took the lives of 20 little children and six adults who cared for them.
For the loved ones of those killed in Newtown, Conn., we struggle to find ways to express our deep collective grief and anguish over this senseless loss of innocent life. We mourn the loss of all these Children of God whose promising futures ended so abruptly. We mourn the loss of innocence and feelings of security in our communities. We mourn the loss of feelings of joy, celebration and goodwill in this Advent season, overshadowed by a dark event.
For the victims and all those impacted by this tragedy in Newtown, we pray that God surrounds and comforts them as they try to cope with such incomprehensible loss. We also pray for the young man that was responsible for creating this pain on Friday. Help us understand how he could commit such a senseless act to deal with his own personal darkness.
In times of grief, we are reminded that darkness is no match for light. As the 1677 hymn "Christ is the World's Light" proclaims, "Christ is the world's light, Christ and none other; born in our darkness, he became our brother. No one can serve him and despise another. Who else unites us, one in God the Father?"
For, I am reminded that as people of light, we are drawn to follow the illumination given freely to us in the form of a savior born over 2,000 years ago. The promise of a new life, free from sin. The promise of unconditional love and forgiveness. The promise of a light that can shatter any darkness.
Today, we pray that the light of Jesus Christ reaches the hurting people of Newtown and the hearts of all of us who need to feel God's love.
Bishop Deborah Lieder-Kiesey
United Methodist Church
Bishop Martin McLee, New York Area
By now you may have heard of the unimaginable tragedy that occurred today at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. The prayers of the nation and even the world are now directed toward the families of the Sandy Hook - Newtown community. The Rev. Mel Kawakami, pastor of the Newtown UMC, will host a prayer vigil this evening. Friends, in the midst of this tragedy draw closer to your loved ones, especially the children. Reassure them of God's love and your love. While we cannot undo this carnage, we can respond with the message of hope and healing that our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ offers to us all. Through the tears of a nation, remember the promise of the Psalmist:
"Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning" (Ps. 30:5.) The grief of this tragedy is still unfolding. However, in this Advent Season of hope and love, let us remember the Christ Child and the promise of the manger.
O' Come O' Come Emmanuel.
All my prayers,
Bishop Martin McLee
New York Area, The United Methodist Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the ELCA
Today we express our sorrow for lives lost in Newtown, and we are being drawn together as a people. May this tragic moment become the occasion to experience the depth of God's mercy and the love of Jesus.
May our mourning move us to join together to turn back a rising tide of violence, for this is not the world that God desires for God's children. In this season of Advent, we bear witness that our hope is in Christ, the prince of peace.
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
The Rev. Gradye Parsons, General Assembly Stated Clerk
Linda Valentine, General Assembly Mission Council Executive Director
In the Aftermath of Two Mass Shootings This Week
A voice was heard in Ramah wailing and loud lamentations. Rachel weeping for her children, she refused to be consoled because they are no more.
Once again we face the horrors of mass gun violence in the United States as, just this morning, a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and opened fire. Reports are that 27 people have been killed, among them 20 children. It was only three days ago that a gunman fired into crowds of unsuspecting Christmas shoppers in the crowded Clackamas Town Center in Portland, Oregon, killing two and wounding one.
Today is a day of wailing and lamentation in our land. From coast to coast, Presbyterians weep with parents and grandparents, siblings and relatives, teachers and school workers, friends and neighbors. We cry out with mall workers and shoppers, security guards and crossing guards. There is no consolation for this tragic loss of life. There are no words.
But in the days to come we must speak and act, as Presbyterians are called to do. We must engage in a conversation in this nation about this unbearably ongoing and despairingly repeatable tragedy. Too many innocent lives are being lost. Too many Rachel's are weeping for loved ones gunned down in senseless and increasingly commonplace acts of violence in places like schools and malls. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in both its policies and actions, is committed to addressing the plague of gun violence. Aware of the faith dimensions of this on-going tragedy and informed by our historic commitment to peace and non-violence, Presbyterians must do our part to responsibly end gun violence. We commend again to the church the 2010 recommendations of the 219th General Assembly "Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God's Call."
Additionally we want to bring to the attention of all Presbyterians the recently released documentary Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence. Through the work of its first-responders to events like this week's shootings, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has identified gun violence as a human made disaster. Trigger examines the impact of shootings on survivors, family members, the community and society. More information can be found at www.pcusa.org/trigger. Additional resources for congregational action and study can be found here.
On this day of great weeping and lament, we turn to God asking for comfort for people everywhere whose lives have been altered by senseless acts of gun violence. And we echo in prayer the cry of the Presbyterian hymn writer Carolyn Winfrey Gillette in the hymn God We Have Heard It:
God, we have heard it, sounding in the silence:
News of the children lost to this world's violence.
Children of promise! Then without a warning,
Loved ones are mourning.
Jesus, you came to bear our human sorrow;
You came to give us hope for each tomorrow.
You are our life, Lord God's own love revealing.
We need your healing!
Heal us from giving weapons any glory;
Help us, O Prince of Peace, to hear your story;
Help us resist the evil all around here;
May love abound here!
By your own Spirit, give your church a clear voice;
In this world's violence, help us make a new choice.
Help us to witness to the joy your peace brings,
Until your world sings!
HERZLIEBSTER JESU: Johann Crueger, 1640 (Ah, Holy Jesus)
Hymn text copyright © 1999 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Permission is granted for free use of this hymn in worship.
American Baptist Churches U.S.A.
The Rev. Roy A. Medley, General Secretary
May God bring comfort and healing to all of those involved in the shooting this morning in Newtown, Connecticut. May we all keep the families and friends of those injured and killed in our prayers. Additionally, continue to pray for teachers, administrators and all children attending the school who lived through this event, and all those affected in some way.
Dr. Aidsand F Wright-Riggins III, executive director of American Baptist Home Mission Societies
We are shocked and saddened by this senseless shooting and the deaths and injuries in its aftermath. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families of this horrendous act. As I bend my knees in prayer I also steel my spine to be a more outspoken advocate for the control of guns in this country.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:
We grieve with the many families and friends touched by this shooting in Connecticut. We mourn the loss of lives so young and innocent. We grieve that the means of death are so readily available to people who lack the present capacity to find other ways of responding to their own anger and grief. We know that God's heart is broken over this tragedy, and the tragedies that unfold each and every day across this nation. And we pray that this latest concentration of shooting deaths in one event will awaken us to the unnoticed number of children and young people who die senselessly across this land every day. More than 2000 children and youth die from guns each year, more than the soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Will you pray and work toward a different future, the one the Bible's prophets dreamed of, where city streets are filled with children playing in safety (Zechariah 8:5)?
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut
The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Bishop Diocesan
The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, Bishop Suffragan
The Rt. Rev. James E. Curry, Bishop Suffragan
December 14, 2012
Dear Friends in Christ:
We are shocked and overwhelmed by the horrendous tragedy of the school shooting in Sandy Hook. We hold the victims, their families, and all who are affected by the shooting in our thoughts and prayers for healing and strength.
We pray that those who have died will be held in the arms of our loving God whose heart aches for those affected by this tragedy.
We bishops have been in touch with the Rev. Mark Moore, the rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Sandy Hook which is adjacent to the school were the shooting took place. We have also communicated with the leadership of Trinity Church, Newtown, and we understand that the Rev. Kathie Adams-Shepherd, rector of Trinity Church is on the scene ministering to the bereaved.
We are departing immediately for Newtown/Sandy Hook to be of whatever assistance we can. We will be in contact when we have additional information.
We invite all clergy to open our churches for prayer.
Please keep all who have died, the one who has perpetrated the shooting, and all affected by this incident in your prayers. May the God who we await this Advent season bring us hope and new life in Jesus the Christ.
Faithfully, Ian, Laura and Jim
The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas
The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens
The Rt. Rev. James E. Curry
United Church of Christ
The Collegium of Officers of the United Church of Christ
Let us place our trust in God, not in guns
The National Officers of the United Church of Christ issued this reflection and prayer in response to the elementary school shooting in Connecticut which resulted in the deaths of 27 people, the majority of which were children under 10 years old.
Reflection from Amistad Chapel:
This afternoon, we gathered in the Amistad Chapel to pray, to share our grief and our frustration. We gathered to lament the loss of life that has taken place today in Newtown Connecticut. This loss of innocent lives is a national tragedy. It took place in Connecticut, but it affects the whole country. Of course, we identify with the people of Connecticut closely. We grieve for the children who died, for the teachers and administrators who died, for their families and their schoolmates. Our prayers are with them today, and in the coming days and weeks.
As we grieve we are aware that this kind of tragedy happens over and over again in this country where for some the gun has become God. We must renew our efforts to control guns and thereby prevent violent tragedies such as this. We must learn how to place our trust in God, not in arms. We must turn swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks.
Loving God, our hearts are broken as we take in the tragedy at Sandy Hook School in Newtown. Tears flow as we see the pictures of young children, teachers and parents fleeing a scene of terror and fear, and as we hear the shaken voices of those who escaped. But mostly, Holy One, we are simply stunned that this kind of violence has once again erupted in our nation. We lift our prayers to you now, prayers that your comfort will surround the families of those children and teachers who lost their lives, and prayers for the community of Newtown. We pray for the hope brought afresh to us by the birth of the Prince of Peace this time of year. May it be born in us and infuse all of our relationships. May your hope and peace touch this world as never before. May your love crowd out our despair and feelings of helplessness. May the star which rested over that manger light the way we take as peacemakers. In the name of the One who is to be born we pray. Amen.
The Collegium of Officers of the United Church of Christ
The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black
General Minister and President
W. Mark Clark
Associate General Minister
The Rev. J. Bennett Guess
Executive Minister, Local Church Ministries
The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo
Executive Minister, Justice and Witness Ministries
The Rev. James Moos
Executive Minister, Wider Church Ministries
NCC president expresses shock and grief
over the loss of 27 persons by gun violence
New York, December 14, 2012 -- The President of the National Council of Churches expressed "shock and the profoundest grief" over the death of 20 children and seven adults at the hands of a gunman in an elementary school today in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
"As a parent, I cannot comprehend the grief other mothers and fathers are feeling tonight," said NCC President Kathryn Lohre. "I share President Obama's instincts to hug my own child especially close tonight. And my heart breaks to know so many parents in Connecticut are no longer able to do that."
Tragedies like the shootings in Newton are impossible for theologians and clergy to explain," Lohre said. "But we seek comfort in our faith that our God is a God of love, and God's heart is breaking tonight, too."
Lohre pointed out that the National Council of Churches has been expressing its concern about gun violence for decades.
The Council's most recent resolution, "Ending Gun Violence, A Call to Action" in 2010, called for a unified effort on the part of churches, government and individuals to address the problem.
The resolution called upon "our local, state, and federal legislators to enact reforms that limit access to assault weapons and handguns, including closing the so-called federal 'gun show loophole,' which allows for the purchase of firearms from private sellers without submitting to a background check, or providing documentation of the purchase.
The resolution called upon persons of faith to "prayerfully, financially, and otherwise support the NCC staff in coordinating ecumenical efforts for gun violence reduction, including preparing educational materials about the magnitude of gun violence, developing avenues for dialogue among gun owners and gun control advocates within our congregations, and offering a faithful witness in cooperating with inter-faith and nonreligious anti-gun violence advocacy organizations."
The full text of the resolution can be downloaded at http://www.ncccusa.org/NCCpolicies/endinggunviolence.pdf
Roman Catholic Church
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
The shooting tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut wrenches the hearts of all people. The tragedy of innocent people dying through violence shatters the peace of all.
At this time, we pledge especially our prayerful support to the Diocese of Bridgeport and the community of Newtown as they cope with this almost unbearable sorrow. We pray that the peace that passes understanding be with them as they deal with the injuries they have sustained and with the deaths of their beautiful children.
Once again we speak against the culture of violence infecting our country even as we prepare to welcome the Prince of Peace at Christmas. All of us are called to work for peace in our homes, our streets and our world, now more than ever.
In the shadow of this shooting, may we know that God's sacrificial love sustains us and may those pained so deeply by this tragedy experience that care in their own hearts.
Orthodox Church in America
His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon
"My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
"All of us have been shaken by the news of the tragic death of twenty young children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. All of a sudden, the image of Rachel, who was 'weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more' [Jeremiah 31:15], becomes more than simply a passage from scripture. Rather, it becomes an unfortunate reality in the lives of those affected by the senseless incident and in our own hearts, as we share in their lamentation and sorrow.
"None of us can truly understand the personal distress that so many are facing today. Yet every one of us knows the reality of such tragedy and experience it in the depths of our hearts. Our very being is shaken and we feel powerless to do anything. Nevertheless, we make an effort to direct our prayers towards the families of those who have lost their most dear ones, most of whom are innocent and pure children.
"Concerning those who have fallen asleep, Saint Paul exhorts us not to "grieve even as others who have no hope" [1 Thessalonians 4:13]. And yet, herein he does not forbid us from grieving. Now is the time for us to weep, but we must weep with the firm hope that comes from our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. "Shed tears, but remain calm; weep modestly, and with fear of God," writes Saint John Chrysostom. And following this example, each of us must strive to transform our sorrow into prayer.
"I therefore call on the clergy and the faithful of the Orthodox Church in America to offer fervent prayers for the souls of those whose lives have been so brutally cut short and for the consolation of all those whose existence has been shattered by this unfathomable event. I also ask that those who are physically able to offer their services to the grieving and the broken-hearted, both in the Newtown community and throughout this land.
"It is at times like this that we must put our faith into action and offer our Christian support and love, to make our prayers concrete through action. Many have been affected, and many more will be overcome by grief, despair and isolation. We must ensure that we do all we can to provide a sense of true community to all those in need and to bear their burdens as the Lord asks us to.
"Together with my brother bishops on the Holy Synod, I offer my condolences to all the grieving families, and I pray that they will find hope in the abundant grace of God. May they be given strength at this most painful moment and find comfort along the difficult path that lies ahead. Let no one among us have any fear, but let us remember that our Lord Jesus Christ has overcome fear, has trampled down death, and has granted us eternal life and great mercy."
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
Council of Bishops
Metropolia Center – South Bound Brook-Somerset, NJ
"Oh Lord, Have Mercy Upon Mankind…"
Dearly beloved Clergy, Laity and Monastics of our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church,
Once again we find ourselves confronted with the horror of what mankind is capable of – the almost inhuman deeds of man against mankind. It comes just before the time that we will commemorate the Holy Innocents murdered in Bethlehem at the orders of a malicious ruler – Herod – who sought to protect his obscene rule from the threat of the King of kings – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Promised One, Who, it was determined, was to be born in the town. Having been "mocked" as he perceived it, by the three kings who failed to return to tell him where the Child was, he ordered that all the male children age two and under in Bethlehem be killed, hoping thus, to prevent the Messiah from rising up to offer the Truth of God's love for mankind and about the sanctity of life. St. John Chrysostom rhetorically asks of Herod:
"Why are you angered Herod, at bring mocked by the wise men? Did you not know that the birth was divine? Did you not summon the chief priests? Did you not gather together the scribes? Did not they bring the prophet also with them into your court of judgment, proclaiming these things from times old? Did you not see how the old things agreed with the new? Did you not hear that a star also ministered to these men? Did you not reverence the zeal of the barbarians? Did you not marvel at their boldness? Were you not horror-struck at the truth of the prophet? Did you not from the former things perceive the very last also? How did you not reason from all these things that this event was not of the craft of the kings, but of a Divine Power, duly dispensing all things? And even if you were deceived by the three kings, what is that to the young children, who have done no wrong?"
When we began to hear the horrific news coming from another small town, Newtown, Connecticut, and the murder of innocents and adults, our fear was that it would be a tragedy beyond belief because some sick mind wanted to make a statement during these Holy Days. Our worst fears have been confirmed. Nearly thirty students and adults have been slaughtered – "having done no wrong" – and our hearts are heavy with pain and we weep as did Rachel of old. We ask the perpetrator of today's slaughter: "Even if you hated your family, what is to these young children and their teachers, who have done you no wrong?"
We, along with all our clergy and faithful of the Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, express our profound sympathy to the parents and family members of those lost. We embrace you with in the Love of God and assure you of our continued prayers that the Almighty encompass you in His Comfort and Mercy.
We appeal to the mass media and beg that the individual or individuals not be "iconized" over the days, weeks and months ahead. An icon is normally a holy depiction of a saintly or heavenly being worthy of emulation in their devotion to and faith in God and for their love of fellow man. But evil can also be "iconized" – placed before society for horrific accomplishments, which defy all the laws of God and of man – very often denying the sanctity of life – gifted to mankind by our Creator and meant for only goodness. We of the Ukrainian nation are all too familiar with this kind of evil – always remembering the ten million of our brothers and sisters – men, women and children – who perished because of the sick and evil mind of the Herod of new times – Stalin – who also sought to preserve his heinous rule.
We appeal to the mass media and beg that the individual or individuals responsible for today's horrific attack be simply identified and then consigned to anonymity. Why? For the sake of the memory of those he slaughtered. Why? For the sake of the families of those lost. Why? For the sake of the fellow students and teachers of those who perished. Why? For the sake of the family of the one who executed today's horror. Why? So that other individuals, perhaps evil, perhaps sick in mind, body or soul, might not be "inspired" to "go out" in the same way – with their names and pictures published in many ways for months, years, decades or even centuries after they are gone, while their victims are forgotten by the world within weeks.
"Lord, have mercy on us…strengthen the families of all affected by the loss of deeply loved children, teachers, parents and friends, however remotely, as well as each of us whose lives are once more scarred by man's inhumanity to man. Receive the souls of your children who have perished into Your loving embrace and give them rest in a place where there is no more such horror, pain and suffering in the Light of Your Countenance. May their souls rest in eternal happiness and their memory be eternal from generation to generation in Your Heavenly Kingdom."
We direct all our clergy and parishes to pray for the repose of the souls of those lost this day in a Memorial Service – Panakhyda following Divine Liturgy on Sunday, 16 December or on 23 December, and also to pray for their surviving family members, fellow students and teachers during the Litany of Fervent Supplication of the Divine Liturgy on these same days.
In our Lord's all-encompassing Love,
By the Grace of God, Metropolitan
By the Grace of God, Bishop
Given this 14th day of December in the year of our Lord 2012