A symbol of light in a time of darkness

April 19, 2007

Bishop Shamana has asked the Conference to hold in prayer the families of the victims of Monday’s massacre at the Virginia Tech campus.


Campus ministries around California-Nevada have been offering students different ways of responding to the Virginia Tech massacre. College campus life is a close knit culture and despite being on the other side of the country from the site of the massacre, the uncertainty of life and security was still too close to home for students.


The University Religious Council, of which the United Methodist Campus Ministry is a part, responded, holding an open mic event on UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza Tuesday. Several hundred students took part. “It’s about helping them build community, and feeling safe,” says the Rev. Tarah Trueblood, campus minister at UC Berkeley. She said the size of the weekly faith dinner discussion meeting held at the UC Berkeley CA house was double the usual number Monday night. “Usually we have just a few students. The students needed to talk. They were looking for a way to feel safe.”  


Wednesday on the campus of UC Davis, students attended prayer services sponsored by campus ministry organizations. The Rev. Kristin Stoneking, director and campus minister of the Cal Aggie Christian Association, being interviewed by local news reporters said students there needed to just be able to come together and express their emotions and find strength by being together. 


In an e-mail to campus ministry staff, the Rev. Dennis Taber, Chair of the Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry called on the Conference to “to lift up in prayer the students, faculty, staff, parents and all whose lives have been touched by this senseless violence.” Taber also directed the Conference community to take advantage of worship resources that could help congregations with the healing process. The resources can be used for those planning services of remembrance and peace. The resources are titled "Resources for Worship and Prayer in the Face of Violence." This link can be found at:



Vigils and prayer services can go a long way to aid those in the midst of tragedy, and while the ritual can be cathartic, there is also empowerment for Christians who respond to the less dramatic, but daily acts of violence and rage that impact the lives of those around us.


At Berkeley’s Epworth UMC, the Rev. Odette Lockwood-Stewart says the congregation has been working to personalize its focus on reconciling and peacemaking. “We just finished a workshop that incorporated the martial arts practice of Aikido and how we deal with conflict in the world. Conflict is inevitable. It’s what you do with it that offers the possibility for change.”


Lockwood-Stewart says the church’s recent response, providing aid to a group of homeless people living in a tent city in Richmond, California helped remove the stigmatism associated with those marginalized, calling it an “an opportunity to address the violence within us and in our communities.”


In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre, it is not college students alone who are seeking a sense of safety. Some United Methodists are fearful they may become victims as well.


One Korean clergy in the Conference, wanting to remain anonymous said, “I feel fear as a minority especially. I remembered after 9-11 I drove on the street and a guy passing by my car screamed at me get out of their country.” The 1992 violence following the Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles and the backlash in the Korean American community remains fresh in the minds of many Korean Americans.


“The reports said the gunman Cho Seung-Hui came to the U.S. when he was 7 years old so he was Korean-American, but the reports kept highlighting a Korean name.” That name recognition, the pastor says, connected Cho Seung-Hui to all Korean Americans and for many, the weight of one mentally ill individual became the burden for an entire ethnic community.


“His name connects him to us all, so I hope there will not be racial prejudice against us. I’m sorry for the innocent victims. I also feel in the future we must pay more attention to our immigrant children.” The Korean clergy adds a final thought, echoing thoughts of countless others. “If we had paid more attention to the children we might have prevented this event.”