The Church of the Brethren director of Ministry, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, wrote a letter to pastors across the denomination after the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Her letter followed on that of general secretary David Steele, and encouraged pastors in their work to reduce violence in their own communities.
Heishman personally joined the vigil in Dayton on the evening following the shooting where, she wrote, “we shared our grief and anguish while proclaiming hope and resolve to act to end the violence in our country.”
“I am intensely aware that as ministers of the gospel of Christ we have a unique opportunity in these days to ‘do something’ quite significant,” her letter continued, in part. “…We can proclaim with passion the mercy and hospitality that Jesus embodied in his presence, his teachings, and his death and resurrection as Savior and Risen Lord. When social media becomes a tool for promoting white supremacist views, may God empower us to proclaim Jesus’ way of living, showing solidarity with marginalized persons whom Jesus loves.”
The full text of the letter follows below and also is online at https://mailchi.mp/brethren/ministry-office-2019-8 .
Dear colleagues in ministry,
Greetings from the Office of Ministry. I write with gratitude for your committed work sharing the saving love, healing, peace, and justice of Christ in your communities. With this message, I add my voice to the message written by David Steele recently as he addressed the violence in El Paso and Dayton.
For my part, I write personally, having joined the evening following the shooting with thousands of fellow Dayton, Ohio, area residents gathered in the square of the city’s Oregon district on the same street where a young white male murdered 9 persons and wounded dozens of others in an act of violence. In the inspiring gathering of residents that took place Sunday evening, we shared our grief and anguish while proclaiming hope and resolve to act to end the violence in our country. Chants of “do something!” rang out in response to elected officials addressing the large crowd that was clearly frustrated by the series of these horrific acts of violence. Faith leaders offered prayers, songs were sung, speeches were offered, and finally we all lit candles to proclaim our fearless resolve to embody love, peace, and hope in our communities.
I am intensely aware that as ministers of the gospel of Christ we have a unique opportunity in these days to “do something” quite significant. We can guide our faith communities in welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, refreshing the thirsty, visiting the sick and imprisoned, clothing the naked and comforting the grieving. We can encourage our church members to advocate for public policies that they believe could reduce violence. Especially in a time in which strangers, immigrants, and foreigners are targeted by public figures as suspicious and dangerous, we can proclaim with passion the mercy and hospitality that Jesus embodied in his presence, his teachings, and his death and resurrection as Savior and Risen Lord. When social media becomes a tool for promoting white supremacist views, may God empower us to proclaim Jesus’ way of living, showing solidarity with marginalized persons whom Jesus loves.
My prayers are with you and your congregations as you seek to welcome others with Christ’s unconditional love, sharing the gospel in word and deed. May the way you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength be reflected as you lavishly love each and every one of your neighbors no matter who they are, what they believe, and how or from where they have come. May God’s grace and peace be yours in abundance.
An historical note: In 1994 the Annual Conference declared, “We believe that the Christian church should be a powerful witness against the use of violence to settle disputes. Faithful disciples of the non-violent ways of Jesus have acted as leaven in the society against the violent trends of every age. Out of devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ we cry out against the violence of our times. We encourage our congregations and agencies to work with other Christians to find dramatic and effective ways to witness to the peace and reconciliation offered through Jesus Christ.”
Grace and peace,
Nancy S. Heishman
Director of Ministry