I was out of town on Monday, helping lead a conference for pastors in the ELCA Northwest Synod of Wisconsin. About 9:30 local time September 16, a woman slid me a piece of paper that read: “There has been a mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. At least 6 killed, more than 10 injured. 1 shooter dead, looking for others.”
That information was early and incorrect, of course. More people were dead, more were injured. The kind of heart-breaking horror that has struck other communities lately now has struck Washington. An individual with severe mental health issues, and a weapon, and access, has killed and been killed. Hundreds of people are grieving, and thousands are in shock.
We bring words of comfort and of hope in circumstances like these. We remind those around us that our God shares our pain and that even death does not separate us from God’s care. We proclaim in word and in action our confidence that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
But in the coming days, we also call those around us to work against this kind of evil. It is becoming clearer and clearer in our society that too many people are disconnected from others and that some increasingly odd and dangerous behavior gets shrugged off until it’s too late. What kind of attention do we owe our neighbors? What kind of resources are we willing to provide for people who need them?
And then, too, in June our Synod Assembly adopted a resolution that said in part “that the Metropolitan Washington D.C. Synod [will] engage people in their communities in a year of prayer, reflection and education on ways to curb gun violence, and to assure responsible use of guns in service of our neighbor.” May this prayer, reflection and education now take place in real earnest.
May God bless us all and bless everyone who’s grieving with the promise of life everlasting.
The Rev. Richard H. Graham
Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
* The original version of this message was distributed to rostered leaders of the synod on 9/18/13.