Tucson Services Call All to Be 'Agents of Hope'

January 13, 2011

A UMNS Report
By Barbara Dunlap-Berg and Joanie Faust*

Children can lead adults to become agents of hope, Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño told those who had gathered to remember the dead and pray for the living in Tucson, Ariz.
"While we adults have been shocked and stunned into numbness because of what has occurred," Carcaño said, "I have seen hope through the children among us."
The Jan. 11 vigil in Tucson was among many interfaith gatherings held in response to the shooting rampage three days earlier, which left six dead and more than a dozen wounded. President Barack Obama also sounded a note of hope in the face of violence when he addressed an overflow crowd during an emotional memorial service Jan. 12 at the University of Arizona.
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., remains in critical condition.
Carcaño, like the president, cited the example of the shooting's youngest victim, 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green.
"She was there at that tragic moment because she had been elected to serve on the student council of her school," the bishop said. "Her neighbor thought she would find it interesting to meet Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. We mourn Christina-Taylor's death, but at the same time, we give God thanks for her witness of hope. At a tender age, she had already come forth to serve."
The Rev. Ed Bonneau, senior pastor at Catalina United Methodist Church, said about 300 people attended the vigil. Catalina was one of several sites across the region for ecumenical services "of mourning, healing and hope" that evening.
People from United Methodist, Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Jewish and other traditions attended, he added, and "it truly was a citywide event."
The Pima County Interfaith Council was instrumental in helping to plan the service, which included three speakers: Carcaño, leader of the United Methodist Desert Southwest Annual (regional) Conference; Roman Catholic Bishop Gerald Kicanas; and Rabbi Stephanie Aaron from Temple Chaverim. Temple Chaverim is Giffords’ synagogue.
'They will not be forgotten'
Some 125 miles north of Tucson, people of all faiths gathered at Temple Solel in Paradise Valley to pray.
The service was a collaborative effort among Rabbi John Linder of Temple Solel; Jan Flaaten, executive director of the Arizona Ecumenical Council; Carcaño; and Joe Rubio of the Valley Interfaith Project.
The Rev. Robert Burns, superintendent of the United Methodist Central East District, read a description of each of the lives lost, including Green, Dorothy Morris, U.S. District Court Judge John Roll, Phyllis Schneck, Dorwan Stoddard and Gabe Zimmerman. As Burns read each name, the diverse congregation responded, "They will not be forgotten."
"If nothing else, we are a community of tekva - of hope," Linder said. "So tonight, with our communities together in mourning, healing and hope, come together as one."
"At a time like this," Flaaten said, "when words do not come easy, we are not healed by easy explanations, by simple answers. Instead, we find healing in the presence of each other."
Bonneau of Catalina United Methodist Church agrees.
"Social-networking sites only take you so far," he asserted. "Being with others is so important."
At a nationally televised evening service Jan. 12, Obama called on Americans of all beliefs to be more empathetic toward each other and not use this tragedy to become further divided.
"At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do," he said, "it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds."
'Hope is the message'
Back in Tucson, Carcaño (at right) urged continued prayers "for those most affected by this tragedy - and for each other, without exception."
While the family of the young man arrested for the shootings - Jared Lee Loughner - was not known to be active in a church, Bonneau said, "One of the specific prayers was for (them), for they, too, are hurting."
Outside Giffords' office, the bishop said, children have covered the sidewalk in colorful drawings.
"Colored chalk is the medium, love is the heart, but hope is the message," Carcaño said.
She recalled walking with a clergy colleague to the congresswoman's office when a boy of about 10 stopped in front of the two. The boy declared that his picture on the sidewalk had been ruined but he would make it better.
"With a confident smile, and chalk in his hand, we saw him walk with great determination toward the sidewalk of hope," Carcaño said. "In that moment, that boy made us part of his family, speaking to us as if we had always known each other, and letting us know that things could be made better. It was a word of hope, great hope."
She encouraged worshippers to "be agents of hope by working for reconciliation knowing that we are all children of God in need of love and hope. … Let us be agents of hope by committing to work for justice, that peace, God's own peace, may come upon us. Our children expect no less of us."
*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications. Faust is writer/editor, Communications Department, Desert Southwest Annual Conference.
[Editor's Note: United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño was among the speakers at a Jan. 11 memorial Mass at St. Odilla Catholic Church for the victims of the Jan. 8 shooting that left six dead and 14 wounded, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The bishop noted that 9-year-old Christina Green "had already come forth as a servant leader" during her short life. Listen to the story on NPR's Morning Edition program.]