Dear Friends in Christ,
It has taken some time for me to write this letter. Like many of you, I have been in shock since I woke to the Sunday news of another mass shooting. I look to our world and I wonder, “What is going on?” Are there any words I can add to the Facebook posts, open letters, news reports and tweets? My words will never be enough, but it is a place to begin. First, here are a few things I know to be true:
1) I know the dead are in the arms of God. I invite you to join me in prayer for those who mourn. I cannot, nor do I want to imagine the pain they must feel.
2) The first responders, the law enforcement agencies, the grief counselors, those donating blood, and all others who have responded to the tragedy need our prayers. For some, what has been experienced will affect them for the rest of their lives. They will never be the same. Let us pray!
3) I call on you to stand with the LGBTQ community. Many are reeling from this horrific outburst of hatred and fear. Let us offer support for all our LGBTQ sisters and brothers in North Dakota and beyond. I fear many are feeling very vulnerable in the wake of this and other acts of terror and hate.
4) We live in a climate of fear and suspicion. I invite you to reach out to our Muslim neighbors. Offer them hospitality and words of support.
5) Together, we can and should pray for our nation. Let us refuse to give in to fear. Let us return love for hate, light for darkness, reason for panic, and acceptance for rejection.
Just over a week ago, we held our synod assembly. It was a powerful weekend. In response to this tragedy, we as a synod are being challenged to put the words, energy, and passion of our gathering into action. Remember, it’s a “love issue”. There are many different opinions about gun control, ISIS, and homosexuality. We are living in a time where political tension is high. We don’t agree on all of these issues, but we must agree we are the hands and feet of Christ. The church is called to be the most loving, welcoming, and grace-filled place on earth. Let us rise to the challenge. Let us swing the doors wide open. Let us, in words and deeds, do all we can to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. We are part of the Jesus Movement, and as such, people of hope and love.
Finally, remember, in the midst of it all, we stand grounded in our sure and certain knowledge of the Resurrection. I close with the familiar, but fitting prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I 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.
Bishop Terry A. Brandt
Eastern North Dakota