Across the globe on Sunday, Aug. 4, United Methodists gathered to worship, to sing and to pray. As congregations gathered in the United States, many were hearing hastily revised sermons, offering laments and praying for the dead, the wounded and the survivors in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.
As has happened before in the wake of mass shootings, United Methodists prayed with longing for a day when violence will cease. Many also considered what actions they might take to prevent similar things from happening.
Among those joining in prayer and calls for action were Florida Bishop Ken Carter, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, and the Hispanic/Latino United Methodists gathered for the annual meeting of MARCHA (Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In its statement lamenting “the loss of precious lives to hate and violence,” MARCHA expressed alarm at “how the evils of white supremacy, racism and xenophobia continue to rapidly spread through all levels of our nation and society” and called on General Conference “to unequivocally denounce the evil of White Supremacy and declare it incompatible with Christian teachings.”
MARCHA also released a prayer, which can be used as other groups plan and take action.
“For those lost to hate and violence and the communities mourning in Texas and Ohio, Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
“For the first responders and caregivers, Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
“For the people of the USA, resurrect our instincts to honor our common humanity and our compassion to the suffering of our neighbor, beyond empty words. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
“For those in positions of power and influence, grant them the will and courage to protect life over ‘freedom’ to kill. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.”
Consider using the prayer and the resources below as your congregation worships and takes other actions aimed at preventing gun violence.
- Bishop Ken Carter issued call to discipleship in wake of mass shootings: Carter calls on all United Methodists to come together to eradicate the white supremacy and xenophobia (fear of immigrants) fueling many recent acts of violence in America.
- Ways United Methodists can take a stand against gun violence: Specific actions range from engaging in conversations and prayer to promoting gun safety to advocating for legal sales and regulations to prevent or reduce gun violence.
- Gun violence prevention: All forms of violence are detestable, but guns make violence more deadly and more frequent.
- Churches and gun violence — 7 practical preparation tips: A former police officer and now pastor offers practical tips.
- Church violence: Protecting your members: You should have a violence preparedness plan, just as you have disaster preparedness plans. There will always be the possibility of situations you can’t predict, but the more situations you prepare for, the better you’ll be able to respond if something does happen.
- Keeping churches safe and welcoming: Watch the video or read the transcript reporting on a church safety summit at Cathedral of the Rockies First United Methodist Church in Boise, Idaho.
- Preparing a church emergency plan: For the safety of the congregation, church leaders should seriously consider taking time to develop a church emergency preparation and response plan. These steps will assist in the development of such a plan.
- Protecting your congregation when the unthinkable happens: United Methodist Insurance provides guidance from the Department of Homeland Security and Ready.gov in the event of an active shooter on church premises.
- Book of Resolutions 2016, #3428: “Whether it happen in the towns of northeastern Nigeria, a suburb in the United States, the streets of Australia or an office in France, gun violence has become an all-too-often frightening phenomenon. We need the reality of Micah’s vision (Micah 4:104) more than ever.” Read the rest of the resolution titled Our Call to End Gun Violence.
- Courageous Conversation about Gun Violence: This outline is a guide to helping people within the church to bring their different perspectives on gun violence prevention together in helpful conversation.
- Faith and Facts: Gun violence: What does the Bible say? What does The United Methodist Church say? What do the facts say? This quick-read card provides information that can be helpful in discussions about addressing gun violence in many forms and in many places and encourages other actions to reduce it.
- Kingdom Dreams Violent Realities Bible Study: A free, downloadable, three-session Bible study on gun violence prevention.
- Fearless conversations: Gun violence: The West Ohio Conference developed this plan for a small group session that will take about 1.5-2 hours to complete.
SUPPORTING SURVIVORS OF VIOLENCE
- Help for crime victims: Information from a resource and advocacy organization in the United States for crime victims and those who serve them.
SUPPORTING CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
- Dealing with grief — Five things not to say: We often have no idea what to say in the face of senseless loss. That is especially true when children are the victims of tragedy.
- How to help children after a crisis: Ministry Matters offers a collection of ideas for parents, teachers and others who love them to help children.
- Trauma resources for ministry with children and families: There are times when we stand in a place when we need to reassure children that they are safe even when we may not feel safe ourselves. These resources are for use in congregations, homes, camps and ministries of the church.
- Helping children cope with violence: Find concrete suggestions for how parents and congregations can help children deal with violent events they hear about in the news.
- Ways to keep the faith when the world seems wicked: A collection of ideas to use when it is difficult to remember what we know — that God created the world to be good.
- Turning to God in days of trouble: Life brings good days and bad. From natural and man-made disasters to personal struggles, we all face tough times. God is always there to comfort us.
- Embrace Love (Social media graphics): Denounce violence and racism and embrace love. Download these graphics to use on your Facebook profile or to share on your timeline.
- Grounded in faith — Resources on mental health and gun violence: This statement and collection of resources was first released by the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition (IDAC), a program of the American Association of People with Disabilities. The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society is a member of IDAC.