In Response to the Synagogue Shooting in Pittsburgh

October 28, 2018

In response to Saturday’s tragedy at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, we are passing along three resources to you:

The first is a statement released Sunday from our General Minister and President, Teresa Hord Owens:

Yesterday hatred took the lives of faithful people and violated sacred space at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, PA. This tragedy, caused by gun violence and driven by anti-Semitism, should outrage us all. Alongside other Christian leaders, I strongly condemn the actions and motivations of the shooter who caused this carnage. I invite other followers of Jesus to join me in praying for those suffering right now and working to end these horrific episodes in our society that are occurring with alarming frequency.

When people gather for worship they seek to encounter the Divine, connect with one another, and experience a goodness that transcends human limitations. The act of entering holy space is foundational for all religious people and the freedom to do so is fundamental to a free society. It should never be threatened or violated. People created in the Image of God should not fear for their lives – or face their deaths – in a house of worship. This violence occurred in a specific place but it sought to destroy something we all cherish.

In this moment of great mourning, may God’s shalom find us all, and especially the members of the Tree of Life Synagogue and the wider Jewish community in the United States. No words can compensate for what was lost. This sorrow will last for many nights. Joy will only find us when the morning dawns on a new day when God’s vision for peace is realized in our society.

The second is the Pastoral Prayer offered by Dr. Bender during yesterday’s worship services:

Loving God, distant yet near, we gather as witnesses to your promise that if we seek you with all our hearts, we will find you. It is on days like this that we stop playing hide and seek and wish to be found by you. With broken hearts and tears of sadness, ready or not, God here we come. Shocked and saddened by yet another tragic loss of life, we grieve with our brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh. As fellow members of the Abrahamic family, we mourn with our family at the Tree of Life Synagogue. We know that a world of violence and hate, bloodshed and terror, is not what you intend. And so we are grateful that in the midst of this brokenness, you are ready. You are there to find us, to share our pain, and to scoop us up in love.

Lord of compassion and power, be with all who grieve this senseless tragedy. Minister to their needs of mind and spirit, body and circumstance. Help those who are hurt, and give peace, comfort, and support to the bereaved. Likewise, O God, for those first responders who rushed in to protect and serve, only to find themselves in harm’s way, we offer our grateful compassion. Give strength and resilience this day to all who do this work, to all who champion relief and the restoration of order.

Lord, we know the work of healing and unity is not something just to be done in Pittsburgh. It’s also something to be done here, in our community, and in our hearts. Give us grace to discern your truth, to confront the hatred and bitterness we find, and to work with mutual forbearance and respect for the common life you have entrusted us all with. Enfold us all, O God, into your community and, on the dawning of this day, spill a ray of hope to lift the hearts of your sons and daughters, here, in Pittsburgh, and throughout your world. For we pray this in the name of our hope, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Finally, we invite you to prayerfully consider the words of Mark A. Miller’s anthem I Choose Love which was composed after the 2015 shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina:

In the midst of pain, I choose love.
In the midst of pain, sorrow falling down like rain, I await the sun again, I choose love.

In the midst of war, I choose peace.
In the midst of war, hate and anger keeping score, I will seek the good once more, I choose peace.

When my world falls down, I will rise.
When my world falls down, explanations can’t be found, I will climb to holy ground, I will rise.

In the midst of pain, I choose love.
In the midst of pain, sorrow falling down like rain, I await the sun again, I choose love.

(Used by permission © Choristers Guild)