“Mommy, will it happen to me?” asked a little girl who had heard about shootings.
Reports of terrorism and increasing gun violence leave children and adults, too, frightened, unsure, and afraid.
Yet, perhaps there is no greater time for the Church and the gospel message than when things are bad. People seem most open to hearing the love of God and receiving assistance from God’s people when they are hurting.
Jesus said that he came to heal the broken hearted and to let the oppressed go free. Violence and tragedy create opportunity for the church to heal, too. We can:
Speak up: Offer words of comfort and a message of hope in person and from the pulpit: “God cares. We’re praying for you. Our hearts are broken for you.” Such words carry a lot of weight in times of personal or collective tragedy.
You can also speak up on-line. For example, I recently found an on-line article written to the parents of a little boy killed in an alligator attack at Disney. The author of the article also lost a child and wrote an open letter intended to comfort those in similar circumstances. I posted it on one of our Facebook sites with the caption that our hearts and prayers are also going out to the family.
Reach out: Offer practical assistance. There are many ways to show we care and that God cares. Sometimes we in the church world do nothing because we simply don’t know what to do. I did a quick review on line and found clergy and churches reaching out in creative, yet practical ways:
Other responses have included:
Clergy and police meeting together to increase reporting of crimes in Norfolk, VA. Clergy and police met together to increase reporting of crimes in Norfolk, VA.
In Los Angeles, the Catholic Church through its "Hope in Youth" initiative working with others to combat gang violence through youth opportunities and economic development.
In Boston, the Ten Point Coalition, an ecumenical group of clergy and lay leaders, works to mobilize the Christian community around issues affecting African American youth -- especially those at risk.
Of course, there are personal tragedies and plenty of pain right in our own neighborhoods to which we can speak and offer practical assistance.
You don’t need to do it all personally. You can set the example and harness the energy of creative people in your church who have ideas of their own. They may only need a little encouragement and assistance.
What other ways do you think the church can speak up or reach out in response to the violence in our society?
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