“Shocked-but-not-surprised…” That’s the sad truth of the reaction many have expressed in the wake of another mass shooting in this nation—the 213th of this year. According to the Gun Violence Archive, the numbers tell a certain story:
- 213 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2022 through May 24 (the 144th day of the year) [source; source]
- 693 mass shootings in 2021
- Mass shootings in this nation have increased 50% since 2020 and nearly doubled since 2017 [source]
- 27 mass shootings in schools in 2022, at least 140 dead
The numbers are sobering; they prompt outrage, disgust, horror… but they do not tell the full story. We know the names of schools because of this blight of violence, seared into our collective memory that remains haunted by the serial trauma—Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Marjorie Stone Douglas, Santa Fe, to name just a few here. Now Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, is added to the long lamentable list. How long, O Lord, how long!
And we will say the names of those who died yesterday, as we did with those who died a week ago in Buffalo, and those before that… and those that are yet to come. We say their names prayerfully, with intention and purpose, as we commend them to God while holding their families in our aggrieved hearts. It is not a hopeless act to pray in such times, even as the weight of this nation’s epidemic of gun violence and repeated failure of our elected leaders may feel like there is no way out of this nightmare.
But there is; there must be. We must take the long view. Ten years ago, after Sandy Hook, I stood with fellow interfaith clergy in the sanctuary of Temple De Hirsch Sinai as we brought our moral outrage, our broken hearts, and our collective resolve to bear in that crucible moment. With civic leaders, we forged a new enterprise—the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility (WAGR), which has had extraordinary impact in our state. Good things have come from that effort, and we must continue. It is not hopeless.
I refuse to concede my hope to such evil and its conspiracy with feckless politicians who lack the courage to act. I refuse to concede my hope in God who I believe with all my heart is calling us into this work, even as we discern what that may be through the prism of our tears… tears shed for the children who have died, for all children who live in fear today, for all parents who heartache, and really for all people, including you and me, who bear the collective trauma of this insidious violence.
I will say more on Sunday in the sermon, and there is an interfaith vigil being considered, but for now I bid you reach out to your friends and family, and to one another in this cathedral community, and hold each other in your hearts. Know that you are in mine. And your clergy will hold the space with you—just ask.
Let love be our antidote to the venom of gun violence. Pour appropriate resources into your local school. Check in on the teachers and mental health professionals whom you know. Parents of young children, too. Get involved.
And I bid you be present in your daily prayers, show up in our corporate prayers and worship. Resist the numbness that can come in these moments. Be gentle with yourself, too. We take the long view, and we will find our way together.
Peace and prayers,
The Very Reverend Steven L. Thomason
Dean and Rector
Selected Prayers from Enriching Our Worship resource of the Episcopal Church
Gracious God, we come before you this day in pain and sorrow. We grieve the loss of the children and teacher in Texas. Give your grace to those who grieve, that they may find comfort in your presence and be strengthened by your Spirit. Be with the entire human family as they mourn, and draw all together in your healing love; in the name of the one who suffered, died, and rose for us, Jesus our Savior. Amen.
For a Child Who Dies by Violence
Loving God, Jesus gathered your little ones in his arms and blessed them. Have pity on those who mourn for the children in Uvalde— innocents slaughtered by the violence of our fallen world. Be with us as we struggle with the mysteries of life and death; in our pain, bring your comfort, and in our sorrow, bring your hope and your promise of new life, in the name of Jesus our Savior. Amen.
God our deliverer, gather our horror and pity for the death of your children into the compass of your wisdom and strength, that through the night we may seek and do what is right, and when morning comes trust ourselves to your cleansing justice and new life; through Christ our Savior. Amen.