As all of you, I was shocked and saddened to hear of the mass shooting at an Orlando nightspot in the early hours of Sunday morning. As President Barack Obama said, “We grieve the brutal murder – horrific massacre – of dozens of innocent people.”
The attack at the Pulse Nightclub targeted members of the LGBTQI community, which heightens the tragedy all the more. Violence, in any form, is unacceptable and when it targets people because of who they are it becomes all the more reprehensible.
That is not our way. It will never be our way.
Our way is a way of peace. Our way is a way of grace. Our way is the way of love first expressed by Jesus Christ and commanded of us as we are his followers, as people who claim His name as our name.
St. Francis’ prayer can well be our prayer today. “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love…Where there is darkness, light.” He invites us to be people who console, to express faith in the midst of doubt, to offer hope in the midst of despair.
Bishop Ken Carter and members of the Florida Conference will gather in Orlando this week for their annual conference session. Even as he wrote on his Facebook page, “I am in awe of the pastors and lay leaders who are already immersed in transformational and mutual ministry with the LGBTQ community within and beyond our churches,” he invites all to pause, in these first 24 hours, “simply to lament, listen, honor the souls of the deceased, and grieve.”
The tragic loss of life reminds us once again that hatred and violence often find a target in those who are innocent, whether in elementary school classrooms in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, or wedding celebrations in India, or a church prayer meeting in Charleston, or villages in Nigeria, as happened in recent hours where a dispute over fish in a pond claimed the lives of United Methodist community leaders.
I invite you to join me in prayer…prayer for those who have died…prayer for those who were wounded…prayer for their families…prayer for the survivors…prayer for the first responders…prayers for the LGBTQI community…prayers for all of us who claim the name of Jesus Christ.
In the midst of tragedy…
Bishop Julius C. Trimble