A prayer on the first Parkland school shooting anniversary


PC(USA) resources can help those who continue to mourn, work to end gun violence

by Mari Evans | Presbyterian News Service

Thursday is the first anniversary of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Broyard, Florida Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Network)

LOUISVILLE — Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, which killed 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) continues to mourn with the families, friends and communities who suffered unimaginable pain and loss that day. We hold each and every member of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School community in our hearts.  Featured is a prayer that the Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, director of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, wrote last year in the aftermath of this tragedy:

O God, who hears the cries of your children, we remember that we are dust, and unto dust we shall return.

But not this way, Holy One, not now. It is far too soon to watch even one more child go down to the dust, let alone so many. These your children, their lives ended by another unspeakable act of violence, deserved our care, our protection, our joyful witness as we watched them grow into the fullness of adulthood. But we have failed. We have not kept our schools safe and our children free from terror. We have not found a way to stem this rising flood of gun violence.  

O Christ who said, let the children come to me and do not hinder them, comfort these lost and wounded ones, shelter them and their grieving families under the shadow of your wings.

Help us to find the way to free our children from fear that hinders their ability to grow, to thrive.

Walk alongside families and friends who now enter the valley of the shadow.

O God, hear our prayers. We are wandering in a wilderness of relentless violence, we are lost.

Our mouths are filled with dust as we taste the bitterness of rage and the first fruits of grief.

Our hearts are broken at the loss of these young lives and the shattering of so many families, and like our forebears, we would cover our heads with dust and rend our garments to show the depth of our sorrow and pain.

Crucified and Human One, who walked through the valley of the shadow of death for our sake, help us. Walk with us through the dark valley. Give us the courage to face our brokenness and lack of will to make peace in our communities, our cities, our schools. Give us the wisdom to open our eyes and speak truth to power. Show us a way out of this wilderness.

In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Seventeen students at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, were shot and killed Feb. 14, 2018. Presbyterians have a number of resources to help those still grieving and are working to end gun violence. (Photo by Kathy Broyard, Florida Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Network)

Carl Horton, coordinator of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, points out a new resource called “Through a Mirror Dimly.” (Find it here.) Gina Yeager Buckley wrote the discussion guide for youth to talk about, pray about and think about life and faith following a violent situation.

Presbyterian Peacemaking Program created a Gun Violence Prevention webpage (here). In addition, Horton said, “we are developing a year-long series of webinars on a variety of topics related to gun violence.” Those webinars should begin later this year.

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and Presbyterian Peace Fellowship developed the No Guns in God’s House signs, which can be accessed here.

A list of 10 things Presbyterians can do to prevent gun violence, from the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program:

  • Contact your representatives in the U.S. Congress and ask that they support:
    1. universal background checks and waiting periods for all gun purchases.
    2. a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons, armor piercing handgun ammunition and .50 caliber sniper rifles.
  • Identify the organizations in your community engaged in gun violence prevention and get involved.
  • Attend a peaceful demonstration or public prayer service to end gun violence.
  • Contact your mayor and city council members and demand that steps be taken in your community to prevent gun violence.
  • Help close the gun show loophole that allows purchases with no background checks.
  • Schedule a screening of “Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence for your group or organization. Visit the  PDA website to order materials and get suggestions on hosting a screening.
  • Join or form a local chapter of “Heeding God’s Call,” a faith-based movement to end gun violence. Visit http://www.heedinggodscall.org/ for more information.
  • Ask the leaders of your worshiping community to address gun violence in worship services (with periodic preaching, liturgies and prayers) and education classes. Resources can be found at pcusa.org/gunviolence
  • Learn about your state’s concealed carry laws (that may allow guns to be carried openly, including into houses of worship). Encourage your places of work and worship to prominently display signs that prohibit carrying guns onto their property.
  • Encourage those you know (citizens, hunters and law enforcement officials) who regularly handle weapons properly to be wise examples in reducing risks and teaching how to prevent the misuse of deadly force.

All suggestions are based upon the recommendations approved by the 219th General Assembly (2010) in “Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call.” PDS #24-0452-11-002.

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