Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Earlier today, a teenage gunman murdered at least 14 elementary-aged students and a teacher in their school in Uvalde. Not somewhere far off, but within the Diocese of West Texas. Not strangers, but children in a close-knit community of which the beautiful parish family of St. Philip’s is a vital part. People we know and love are heart-broken and grief-stricken tonight, even as they seek ways to care for and comfort the devastated families and their town. This is so utterly wrong.
Words of outrage are not enough to express our hatred of this evil done to little children who simply went to school this morning. Expressions of sorrow scarcely touch the depth of families’ grief tonight. There is nothing we can say today to comfort the parents, siblings, and grandparents whose lives were left in ruins by this evil violence.
What we have to offer is ourselves. To turn ourselves, our hearts and minds, to those who are suffering in Uvalde – to reach out our hands to lift up and to extend our arms to embrace – this is what we have to offer, following the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, and following him in whatever ways are available into the pain and brokenness of our brothers and sisters in Uvalde and at St. Philip’s Church. We have received power to love and to resist hatred.
And we can pray. We must pray. Ignore the cynics, and pray with all your heart. Let your cries reach to the heavens. Let your anger and despair be your prayer. And listen to God answering in return. Look for God’s tears revealed and listen for his perfect and righteous anger. Give yourself over to opportunities to join in the Spirit’s work of binding up and healing. Love with all you’ve got, and never, ever surrender to the darkness.
In the few hours since the news broke, I have already received so many emails, texts, and phone calls from around the Diocese and around the country, offering to do whatever they can, send whatever is needed, to support Uvalde. Episcopal Relief and Development has reached out and offered resources. The Presiding Bishop’s office has been in contact. Bishops have called me, including Bishop Scott Mayer of neighboring Northwest Texas and Connecticut’s Bishop Ian Douglas, whose diocese suffered the horrific Sandy Hook massacre. Clergy and people within West Texas are standing by, offering love, support, and prayers. As more information becomes available, we will do all we can to uphold our brothers and sisters of St. Philip’s, looking to them and their rector, the Rev. Mike Marsh, for guidance as to how we can support their community.
Because I believe in Jesus, I am convinced that sin and death are defeated and darkness will never prevail over the light of resurrection. Because I believe in eternal life, I trust that the senseless murder of these innocent children is not the final thing to be said about them. If the Gospel is true, it is true in all times and in all places, including in Uvalde tonight. If God is with us, then he is with us even in those times and places where it seems that death and darkness have prevailed.
Jesus loves the little children. He tells the disciples to move aside and make room for them, and he takes the children in his arms and blesses them. In your prayers, make room for the children of Uvalde—all of them, and of all ages—and pray for all victims of violence that the Peace of Christ will be known and welcomed.
Let us pray.
O God our Father, whose beloved Son took children into his arms and blessed them: Give us grace to entrust your beloved children of Uvalde to your everlasting care and love, and bring them fully into your heavenly kingdom. Pour out your grace and loving-kindness on all who grieve; surround them with your love; and restore their trust in your goodness. We lift up to you our weary, wounded souls and ask you to send your Holy Spirit to take away the anger and violence that infects our hearts, and make us instruments of your peace and children of the light. In the Name of Christ who is our hope, we pray. Amen.
Love in Christ,
Bishop of West Texas