Rev. Albert Rush encourages Michigan congregations to address societal violence of all kinds, providing space in worship to remember and pray for all those who suffer.
On June 29, 2022, Pastor Albert Rush recorded this video to share how he and Immanuel United Methodist Church address the topic of violence during worship. Below is the transcript of that video. Rush remembers not knowing what to do after the school shooting at Sandy Hook, only knowing he must do something at church that next Sunday. As he gathered worship and music leaders, together they determined next steps. This summer he is organizing with leaders in the Michigan Conference and interfaith clergy in his community to address violence. In his message, Rush speaks about ongoing acts of violence occurring in our communities and how it is our responsibility to remember all those affected, and to not make these incidents normal.
The 2022 session of Annual Conference approved Addressing Gun Violence, #2022-16. This resolution called on Michigan Conference leadership, including congregations, clergy, and laity, to take action to address the rise in gun violence. As part of this resolution, a coalition was created with the Board of Justice to gather resources for churches to use and encourage advocacy. To connect with leaders in this effort, contact Heather McDougall-Walsh, [email protected] Rush is part of this coalition, and his words to us today are part of this ongoing effort to inspire action.
Hello, I’m here in our sanctuary, and I come to you as the convener for the Michigan Area Church and Society group, to talk about something very dear to my heart and many of our hearts. The violence that’s been happening in our society. And when I say violence, not just gun violence, violence with elder care, child abuse, spousal abuse, handicapped individuals’ abuse, suicide, and various other types of abuse.
I’m here to talk about this violence and what we are called to do as Christians. One of the things that is so important is that we cannot act like this is normal in our society. We cannot act like the violence that goes on is normal. We at Immanuel, have decided that we will never act like this is normal. Anytime violent incidents happen, we will set aside time in our worship to make sure we deal with those major issues. It’s not easy, it’s difficult, and now we do it effortlessly.
On July 1, 2012, as a local pastor, my first full-time assignment was to Immanuel United Methodist Church in Eastpointe, as a cross-cultural appointment. What that means is that I’m African American, and the majority of my congregation is white. We were enjoying the wonderful things we were doing that first year and heading into the Advent season, the joy of our church is decorated and ready for Advent.
Then on December 14, 2012, the Sandy Hook School tragedy hit. All those young lives were being taken. Immediately, I called my worship team, my praise band, and my choir. We put together a service to honor the lives of those young people. We lit candles on our altar for every single one who had lost a life and thought we were doing something special for a special moment. Unfortunately, over the last 10 years, so many different incidents have happened. Most recently, one very close to us was the Oxford shooting. What we realize is that we must continually do whatever we can to try and be of help.
In June 2013, as we were approaching the celebration of the Pentecost season, we found that June is anti-violence month, and orange represents the color of violence. Since then, each and every Sunday, we light orange candles in remembrance of violence. You see big incidents happen, and we’ll speak about them, but every week somebody’s committed suicide, a child has been abused, an elder has been abused, somebody handicapped has been abused. We want to make sure that we never forget those things.
You’ll see our altar is ready for the Fourth of July. Amongst the Fourth of July decorations, you will see two orange candles lit each and every Sunday. We do that to make sure that we never forget. It is so important as leaders, that we find ways and spaces in our worship services to make sure that we lift up and pray for those that have been suffering continuously. As a matter of fact, just this week, we found more people being abused. Immigrants, people crossing the border, stuffed in a container, and over 50 of them lost their lives. Once again, as we celebrate the wonderful things of the Fourth of July, we will talk about the freedoms that so many people try to get to that they risked their lives.
There are many things that you may be able to do to help. [Below you will find] resources for you to understand, learn how, and find ways you can lift up people with violent circumstances to educate your congregations about violence. Understand, we cannot do nothing. We must do whatever we can to continue to lift up the lives that are lost and find ways as our hymns say, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” We as United Methodists can help that process by being active and doing all that we can, loving our neighbors as ourselves. Thank you for this time.
Amen and Amen.
Rev. Albert Rush serves as pastor of Immanuel United Methodist Church, and serves on the boards of The Fellowship of Local Pastor and Associate Members, Michigan Area United Church Anti-Bias/Anti-Racism working group, The Young Leader Initiatives Board of Directors, and serves as Chairperson of Church and Society for the Michigan Area United Methodist Church Board of Justice.
Ideas for next steps
Consider watching this video together with members of your ministry setting. Discuss what catches your attention in the journey of Pastor Rush and Immanuel UMC. What might be another faithful step you and your ministry setting might take in addressing violenceHow might you learn, give, and act together?
- The End Gun Violence Now Campaign, a coalition including many faith leaders across Michigan, is organizing advocacy and events.
- The Gun Violence Reduction Sabbath Resource Packet, from the Interfaith Action SW Michigan Peace and Justice Collaborative, contains ideas for worship, prayer vigils and action.
- The General Board of Church and Society(GBCS) of the United Methodist Church has a Bible study, fact sheets, and advocacy training videos and resources.
- The Wisconsin Council of Churcheshas published a Faith & Gun Violence Study and Action Guide, in addition to other practical resources for individual and congregational use.