and those who get understanding…
She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called happy. (Proverbs 3.13, 18)
Almighty God, your love never fails. You are our wisdom, our hope, our tree of life. Look with mercy on us all, shocked and grieving for those murdered at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. May your holy presence turn us from the darkness of hatred and violence to the daybreak of your hope. Give courage and faith to all who mourn, and a sure and certain hope in your loving care, that, casting all their sorrow on you, they may have strength for the days ahead.
Lord, have mercy.
Bishop’s Statement on Tree of Life Massacre and Other Acts of Hate and Prejudice
There is very little I can add to the excellent statements published by our ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and many others, including many lay and rostered members of our Synod. But, I certainly do want you to know how deeply and completely I decry and lament recent acts motivated by hate, prejudice and destructive public discourse.
Adding to the millions of other horrible acts throughout history given birth and fueled by widespread and indefensible hatred toward specific groups of other humans; in the past week we have learned about not only the vicious attack on our Jewish siblings while they worshipped, but also of more than a dozen bombs mailed to high profile figures in our country and two African Americans killed while shopping for food.
And, those are only the horrible headlines, which do not detail the untold number of hateful or demeaning things said and done this past week by our neighbors, co-workers and perhaps even our friends and family or we ourselves. All this is both a byproduct and perpetuation of systemic racism, sexism and prejudice at every level and in every institution of our society, including our beloved church.
This needs to be a time, therefore, not only of sympathy and prayers for others, and righteous indignation, but also of personal and corporate repentance and reformation. We must be the ones to speak out when we hear hateful remarks or accusations. We need to respond with faithful, positive action when we feel, hear or see prejudice lead to unkindness, rejection or worse. It starts with us…
Most merciful God, we confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen (ELW, Confession and Forgiveness, p.95)
Bishop Bob Humphrey
Virginia Synod, ELCA
ELCA presiding bishop responds to Tree of Life shooting
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
I write to you with a broken heart – for the lives lost, wounded, and shattered by horrific hatred and violence at Tree of Life Congregation this morning. We join our Jewish neighbors and enter into mourning for all that has been lost. In our grief, God is our comfort. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
From Pittsburgh to Portland, and around the world, Jews are living in fear. Anti-Semitism is on the rise. Public acts of hatred and bigotry against Jews are commonplace. As Christians, and particularly as Lutherans, we deplore and reject this bigotry. “We recognize in anti-Semitism a contradiction and affront to the Gospel, a violation of our hope and calling, and we pledge this church to oppose the deadly working of such bigotry, both within our own circles and in the society around us” (1994 Declaration of the ELCA to the Jewish Community).
We are reminded that hate-filled violence knows no bounds – whether a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, a Christian church in Charleston, or a Jewish synagogue In Pittsburgh. As people of faith, we are bound together not only in our mourning, but also in our response.
Therefore, in this tender moment of grief, let us reach out to those whose hearts are most broken – our Jewish neighbors. I encourage you to contact your local synagogue, or your Jewish colleagues, friends, and family members, to share your words of care, support, love, and protection. There may be specific acts you might offer to demonstrate your care, such as when the members of Faith Lutheran Church surrounded Congregation Beth Israel of Chico, California, serving as Shomrim, or guardians, as they observed Yom Kippur following a hate crime in 2009.
Such simple acts can go a long way to demonstrate our love, as an extension of God’s love. As we seek to heal the brokenhearted, we are assured that God is near. There is no greater promise in the face of grief.
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop, ELCA
Interfaith Prayer Vigils Across Virginia for Pittsburgh Victims
Virginia Interfaith Center stands together with the victims, their families, the community, and the country. We share the horror and heartfelt sadness over the slaughter of innocent people who were worshipping peacefully on the Holy Sabbath. It is even more disturbing that the attack took place during a baby naming, a most joyous occasion when a family is celebrating the gift of bringing new life into the world.
We mourn the loss of innocent lives and convey our concern and outrage. The shooter killed 11 and wounded 6 people with a semi-automatic assault rifle. This is the deadliest attack on Jews in the history of the United States.
We join in prayers for recovery for the injured, prayers for those who have lost their lives, and prayers for the courageous law enforcement officers and first responders who were injured in this horrific incident.
VICPP staff will be attending an interfaith prayer vigil in Richmond tonight and we invite you to join us and share information about the this and other vigils across Virginia this week. Below please find a list of vigils across the state.
With Sadness and in Prayer,
Ms. Kim Bobo and Pastor Rodney Hunter
Co-Directors, Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy
DATE: Monday, Oct 29 – 7 p.m.
LOCATION: Congregation Shaa’are Shalom Sanctuary
19357 Evergreen Mills Road, Leesburg, VA
Vigil – “Facing Hate with Faith: A Loudoun Vigil for Pittsburgh” coordinated by Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation and Congregation Sha’are Shalom
DATE: Monday, Oct 29 – 6:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Ohef Sholom Temple
530 Raleigh Ave, Norfolk, VA
A healing service and town hall meeting. In the wake of the tragic shooting in Pittsburgh, our Ohef Sholom family will come together for a service of healing followed by a town hall meeting. This will be a time to pray, to process, to be together.
More info on Facebook
DATE: Monday, Oct 29 – 6:30 p.m.
LOCATION: Adas Israel Congregation
2850 Quebec Street, NW, Washington, DC
Community Service and solidarity gathering for Tree of Life Synagogue. Hosted by the Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington Contact: Alexis Schwartz at firstname.lastname@example.org PARKING: limited parking, accessible by the Cleveland Park Metro RSVP requested. Info on Facebook
DATE: Monday, Oct 29 – 7:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists
3051 Ironbound Rd.
Multi-faith vigil led by Rabbi David Katz of Temple Beth El and clergy including Rev. Laura Horton-Ludwig.
DATE: Tuesday, Oct. 30 – 7:00 p.m.
LOCATION : Weinstein JCC
5403 Monument Avenue, Richmond, VA
A Night of Unity: Stand Together with Pittsburgh. Interfaith community gathering: we will come together in prayer and song to express our sorrow, share condolences, and find comfort in the bonds of community. Sponsored by the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond and many partners including the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy
DATE: Tuesday, Oct. 30 – 7:30-9:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Temple Rodef Shalom
2100 Westmoreland Street Falls Church, VA
Service of solidarity, strength, and comfort. Parking will be challenging. We encourage people to park at Longfellow Middle School or Haycock Elementary School.