[Episcopal Church of South Carolina]
Dear People of God of The Episcopal Church of South Carolina,
A pall of darkness and horror has once again fallen over our beloved country. In the massacre in Las Vegas we know as of this writing that 58 people have died and more than 500 have been injured. It was an unspeakable act of evil. Our hearts go out to all the victimized, including their families, as we hold them in prayer that somehow mercy and grace may be known to them. Many times this comes in the form of the first responders, pastors and medical personnel who tend to their needs. They need our prayer as well.
The Episcopal bishop of Nevada, Dan Edwards, and the people of the Episcopal Church there, will be right in the middle of the responses needed so that a word of love may be spoken in the midst of hatred and violence. Edwards has asked that the Episcopal Churches across Nevada toll their bells in mourning at 9 a.m. Pacific time Oct. 3, once each time for the number of those killed, including the perpetrator. I am asking that our churches in South Carolina who have bells to toll them at noon Eastern time on Oct. 3, to join in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Nevada.
In addition to our prayer, we must also act. We must find a way to be in conversation about the culture of violence sweeping our nation and engage in repentance for whatever ways we participate in that culture, even unwittingly. The nature of gun violence in particular, as we know, is wrapped up in issues of poverty, class, mental illness and race. A serious conversation leading us to enact reasonable gun laws must be had, and so far it has eluded us as a nation. Some of you are aware that I am one of the Episcopal bishops who join in a group called Bishops United Against Gun Violence, and I direct you to that website for information: bishopsagainstgunviolence.org. We ask hard but necessary questions such as: “Why, as early as this very week, is Congress likely to pass a bill making it easier to buy silencers, a piece of equipment that makes it more difficult for law enforcement officials to detect gunfire as shootings are unfolding?” “Why are assault weapons so easily available to civilian hands?”
Our goal must not be just better laws, however. We are about changing hearts and human transformation. We follow the Prince of Peace and name Jesus as Lord. We are about healing and wholeness, building bridges across lines of division and hostility. This is the work we must continue to do, work that participates with our prayer and longing for the healing of the nations.
Please join in the ringing of bells tomorrow as you are able. Do gather together in prayer wherever you may be at that time. I leave you with the familiar, but oh so beautiful, A Prayer Attributed to St. Francis:
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, page 833.)
Blessings, peace and love to you all,
(I am grateful to my sisters and brothers in Bishops United Against Gun Violence for the Inspiration for this letter.)