Dearly Beloved in Christ,
I know you join with me in expressing shock, sorrow and outrage at the recent shootings in Charleston, South Carolina. Many of us are gathering from across the Diocese prepared for a weekend of engagement with the inspiring aspects of being followers of Jesus Christ through the offerings of our Ministries Retreat, and we find ourselves confronted by the harsh reality of our society's alienation for which Jesus came as God's agent of reconciliation. When we awoke yesterday morning to the news of this act of senseless violence and of outrageous racial hatred which killed nine people in the very place that was their sanctuary, Emanuel African American Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, we may have asked how are we to respond? There are opportunities beyond stunned passivity and a sense of despair.
As a mark of mourning and in prayerful solidarity with the families and community members of the victims, we are invited to ring the bells of our churches attoday for ten minutes - nine for the victims and one for the soul of the young man whose own mental state drove him to such hatred. The Bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the Right Reverend Charles von Rosenburg, also asks us to join with many across the country in reciting the Prayer of 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 darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; the be understood and to understand; to be loved than 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".
This is also a time for people to come together and so please consider gathering at St Paul's AME Church on 1201 Day Street in Des Moines fromfor a time of prayer and mourning; or Bethel AME at for community worship on 1528 University Avenue, or at an Interfaith Shabbat Service from at Temple B'Nai Jeshurun on Grand and 51st street. We at Grinnell College will seek to make our own action of solidarity and prayer.
Remember too that the people of Waterloo are still undertaking their Jericho Walk eachat to mark and reclaim as sacred their own streets and locations of gun violence that has taken a number of their children.
Longer term, we need also to recognize and intensify the serious task of conversation about what constitutes truly sensible gun laws that promote greater human safety, as well as the very serious question of our racial tension. How high must the mountain of senseless acts rise before we stop letting fear and money talk? One young man I met at the Jericho Walk said that there was no such thing as common sense when it comes to the possession of guns. When I raised the issue of tapping into people's self-interest, he said "there was no self- interest apart from money. That's what talks."
With the Psalmist we ask: "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I have perplexity in my mind and grief in my heart, day after day? How long shall my enemies triumph over me?" And we seek his courageous answer: "But I put my trust in your mercy; my heart is joyful because of your saving help."
+Alan Scarfe, Bishop of Iowa