Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr. expressed shock and sorrow on learning today of the horrific mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut where some 26 people died, 20 of them children between the ages of 5 and 10. The bishop said his prayers and those of the people of the California-Nevada Annual Conference are with all of the families affected. Where words and understanding fail us, the bishop said, "We must remember that God is present even in the midst of incomprehensible tragedy."
The bishop reminded that Jesus, "the man of sorrows," experienced and understands human pain. In Mark 14:34, Bishop Brown said, we read how Jesus cried out to his disciples in anguish, in the Garden of Gethsemane, "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death" – and noted that the Savior's next words were, "Stay here and watch with me."
"That is our role in times such as these," the bishop said, "to be present with those who are suffering and to uphold them in prayer. We ask that God will comfort those who mourn, as the Bible promises, and extend the healing power of the Holy Spirit to them in the difficult days ahead." Bishop Brown said he knows that The United Methodist Church will "be there" for the people of Connecticut, as it is at any time that disaster strikes – whether that be from natural causes or by human hand.
In Sandy Hook, Connecticut, Newtown United Methodist Church is just steps away from the site of the shootings. The Rev. Mel Kawakami, the church's senior pastor, said the 600-member church already is serving as a respite center for Red Cross first responders, and its sanctuary is open for prayer. A prayer vigil was planned for at 4 p.m. PST today.
Here in California-Nevada, Los Altos UMC is among the United Methodist churches planning special observances. The Rev. Mark Bollwinkel, senior pastor, posted on Facebook, "LAUMC will offer our community an informal prayer vigil this evening in our sanctuary for the victims …. It will include candle light, quiet meditation, and a chance of offer our own prayers of concern and healing." The service will take place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. PST, Bollwinkel said, and "all are welcome."
If your church is planning such a service, please share the information by commenting below, or on the Conference Facebook page (http://facebook.com/cnumc).
The denomination's communications agency, United Methodist Communications, also is planning to place messages of support and hope in local newspapers.