By Jessica Brodie
The shots rang out, and as news broke the prayers—and the Christian help—sprang into action.
In the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting Oct. 1, called the deadliest mass shooting in United States history, The United Methodist Church spoke out and reached out in love and compassion in an effort to be the church for people frightened and in desperate need.
“Our hearts ache as we hear of yet another act of violence exacerbated by guns. The senseless assault in Las Vegas … took scores of lives, injured hundreds and terrified thousands,” said South Carolina Resident Bishop Jonathan Holston. “We lift up in prayer those killed and wounded, their families and loved ones, and the first responders and others who put their lives on the line to protect and save innocent victims. We thank God for the skilled hands of the doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who continue to work to heal devastating wounds, as well as all of the volunteers lining up for hours to donate lifesaving blood.”
Across South Carolina and the world, churches held prayer services and prayer chains for victims, survivors and the nation. In Las Vegas and elsewhere, many donated blood and offered comfort. Nearby churches offered housing, food and other supplies for survivors.
Bishop Robert T. Hoshibata, resident bishop of the Desert Southwest Conference of the UMC that includes Las Vegas, urged United Methodists to join him in prayer and in active work toward peacemaking.
“Respond with action,” Hoshibata said, urging people to preach and teach nonviolence. “Commit yourself to advocating for an end to senseless violence by speaking up for restrictions on gun ownership that allow individuals to own weapons used in mass shootings such as this.”
Fifty-eight people were killed and more than 500 hospitalized in the country music festival shooting at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, and many are still recovering in the hospital weeks later. Authorities still don’t know why the alleged gunman, Stephen Paddock, used long-range modified assault rifles to fire at the crowd of concertgoers from his 32nd-floor hotel room. Paddock was found dead in his room from a self-inflicted gunshot.
The day after the shooting, Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, head of the UMC’s General Board of Church and Society, urged United Methodists to advocate at all levels for laws that prevent or reduce gun violence.
“Christ calls us to be peacemakers, which is why—along with our prayers—we must work to end gun violence. To do nothing is to be complicit in this seemingly endless terror gripping our communities,” Crowe said.
Holston echoed her thoughts, noting, “As United Methodist Christians committed to social justice and opposed to gun violence, we also must address this continuing, disturbing succession of ever-worsening gun violence.”
South Carolina reacts
Across South Carolina, churches held prayer services and other efforts to come together in grief and look to the Lord for hope.
Mount Horeb UMC, Lexington, had a well-attended church-wide prayer service the Wednesday after the shooting, Oct. 4.
St. Mark UMC, Charleston, held a Service of Hope Oct. 4 as its response. St. Mark pastor the Rev. Michael Bingham organized the service as a way to reinforce the truth that love is a stronger force than evil and hope is more powerful than fear.
With so many things that divide us today, Bingham said the cross of Jesus Christ reminds us that God understands our suffering.
“I knew that what we all needed was hope,” Bingham said, “and not just any hope, but the hope of life that is the Good News. And so we put together a simple, quiet service. We wanted it to be a time to unplug from our electronic devices, the news, social media, and the world outside. In the quietness we invited the God of Hope to come down and be with us, and we asked our Creator—who is an ever-present help in trouble—to lift us up into the presence of the throne of grace. And in that place, with God and God-with-us, we worshiped, we sang, we prayed and we hoped that tomorrow would be a better day.”
Vox and Brown’s Chapel UMCs, in the Florence District, also held a prayer service for the Las Vegas shooting, as well as for hurricane recovery and other concerns of the church.
“Prayer is not the least we can do. Prayer is the most important thing we can do as the Body of Christ,” said the Rev. Richard C. Jayroe. “We are the Body of Christ, and just because we may not know the people that have suffered the loss or experienced the pain doesn’t mean we do not hurt.”
And in Beaufort, Waters Edge UMC pastor the Rev. Lane Glaze held a service the Sunday after the shooting rooted in Psalm 22, what Glaze called “a psalm for a season of pain.”
While the message was part of an ongoing fall series, that Sunday specifically focused on the Las Vegas shooting as well as recent hurricane “other chaotic and painful events in recent weeks,” Glaze said.
For more resources on gun violence and how to help or heal:
- Gun Violence Prevention: www.umcjustice.org/what-we-care-about/peace-with-justice/gun-violence-prevention
- What we believe: www.umc.org/what-we-believe/ways-united-methodists-can-take-a-stand-against-gun-violence
- Trauma and families: www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/after-traumatic-events-listen