A lamentation of gun violence

Saturday’s assembly session opened with a meaningful litany and lamentation on gun violence. In particular, it was a time to remember and lament the fatal shooting that took place on the campus of UNC Charlotte almost exactly one month ago. We also gave attention to another act of gun violence that occurred in Virginia Beach just yesterday. Through this litany, the assembly was able to voice its sorrow and lift prayers for the many victims, families, and communities who have experienced these tragedies.

Pastor Joanna Stallings led with a Gospel reading from the second chapter of Matthew which tells of Mary and Joseph’s escape to Egypt with the baby Jesus. This prompted Herod’s violent proclamation of death to all children in and around Bethlehem. The reading concluded with verse 18, “A voice was heard in Ramah—wailing and loud lamentation. Rachel weeping for her children, she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.”

“I weep” for our children…boys…girls who are no more. “I weep” for our parents and families forced to grieve. “I weep” for cities and towns torn by gun violence and terror. “I weep.” Each refrain echoed Rachel’s lamentation: “We refuse to be consoled.”

Individual prayers were then lifted for all those affected by gun violence before the litany turned from weeping to crying out. “I cry out” for the justice of our children … for hope … serenity … tranquility … and peace. This time the chorus echoed, “We refuse to be defeated.”

Lastly, things took an empowering turn with inspiring statements of action: We pray for hope! We act for peace! We act for justice!

UNC Charlotte’s Campus Pastor, Steve Cheyney, addressed the assembly in a video statement. He explained that both students who died in the campus attack were connected to Niner United, the ecumenical mainline Protestant campus ministry at UNC Charlotte. This event has understandably changed the campus and campus ministry forever. Through the pain, they remain united in helping the community “re-learn what it means to live abundantly in Jesus’ grace and love.” Pastor Steve also states that they will continue their calling to equip members of the community to make meaning of their lives by “bearing one another’s burdens.” Those who have reached out to Niner United with prayers, love, and support have been essential to the ministry in this time of crisis. “Your prayers are heard and welcomed,” Cheyney declares. Keep them coming as Niner United prepares to do ministry for the long haul.

In the end, John Jahr led us in lifting up songs to the Lord and support was donated with compassionate love to all those in need of healing from the tragic effects of gun violence. Christ, be our light, indeed.

Listen to the assembly’s song.

Story—Carissa Abraham, Director of Faith Formation & Engagement Ministries at St. Mark’s, Mooresville.
Photo—Sage Rufsvold, graduate student in the Communication Studies program at UNC Greensboro.