In a call made from Jerusalem Dec. 14, Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley Noffsinger expressed his deep sorrow upon hearing the news of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The news reached Noffsinger while he and a group of Brethren leaders were in Israel, taking part in a delegation to the Middle East along with a group from the American Baptist Churches USA. The group has since returned to the United States (look for a report on the delegation to appear in the Dec. 27 issue of Newsline).
Along with the general secretary and his wife Debbie Noffsinger, the Brethren delegation included associate general secretary Mary Jo Flory-Steury and her husband Mark Flory-Steury; and three members of the denomination’s Mission and Ministry Board: Keith Goering, Andy Hamilton, and Pam Reist.
In his phone call, Noffsinger commented on how news of the school shooting had a profound effect on all in the delegation. The group heard about the shooting after spending an evening at the Wailing Wall praying for peace for all people. The next morning they had prayer together with the American Baptist group. “From the Holy City we send prayers,” Noffsinger said.
The Brethren delegation to Israel and Palestine sent the following letter of support and encouragement to the people of Newtown, Conn., addressed to the First Selectman of the town and the Superintendent of Newtown Public School District:
To the people and leaders of Newtown,
Our condolences on the loss of your children, loved ones, friends, and co-workers.
We heard of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School while in the Holy City of Jerusalem. Returning from an evening of praying for peace for all people at the Wailing Wall, the news of the shooting and the deaths of so many of Newtown’s children has had a profound effect on us.
As a delegation of Church of the Brethren leaders to Israel and Palestine, during this Advent season we are visiting a place where people have seen centuries of violence. Yet even here, the news of your suffering has been shared widely and it is clear that the whole world is paying attention and is walking alongside you in your loss and grief.
Out of our long church history of working and praying for peace, we know that all people are created in God’s image and that God loves and cares for all human lives. We add our prayers to those of so many others who hold Newtown in our hearts this day. We pray especially for the parents who have lost children, the siblings who have lost brothers and sisters, and the families of the school staff who were killed.
For the leaders of Newtown and Sandy Hook Elementary School, we pray for strength, courage, and wisdom in this difficult time.
In the peace of Christ,
Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary, and Debbie Noffsinger
Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Associate General Secretary, and Mark Flory-Steury
Keith Goering, Mission and Ministry Board
Andy Hamilton, Mission and Ministry Board
Pam Reist, Mission and Ministry Board