Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Disciples of Christ General Minister Sharon Watkins preaches about Arizona Shooting, USA
by Peter Menkin

Sharon Watkins
The General Minister of Disciples of Christ told her membership she was in the Chapel in the morning of January 10, 2011 at their Disciples Center in Indianapolis, Indiana, regarding the Arizona shooting. Sharon Watkins observed a moment of silence as called for by President Obama “to honor the innocent victims of the senseless tragedy in Tucson, Arizona, including those still fighting for their lives. It will be a time for us to come together as a nation in prayer or reflection, keeping the victims and their families closely at heart.”

After the silence, there were brief prayers. She said in a press notice,”…we join hearts and prayers across the church…”

The Reverend Doctor said in her blog, January 10, 2011–reflection titled, “God’s Heart was the first to Break”:

God’s heart was the first to break – when one young man decided to pull the trigger and when his victims began to fall. Now a nation is in shock and grief. We are reminded again how fleeting is life and how enduring the patterns of human nature, both for good and for harm. A US Representative known for her openness, kindness, and care; a child at the very budding of her incredible promise; a deacon and pillar of his local congregation putting his own body between his wife and the shooter . . . In all 20 persons dead or wounded by one very broken young man. In times like these people of faith turn to God who made us, who loves us still, and we ask, “Why?”

This American based denomination’s response is called a calming response to the tragedy.In the General Minister’s reflection she notes significant points of contrition and self-examination:

■prayers of praise to God who intends that life would be good and who walks closely with us when it is not;

■prayers of confession of our own tendency to vilify our enemies and to fear those we do not understand;

■prayers of petition for healing for those wounded in the attack, for the families and friends of those who have died, for the family of the man who shot them – and for him;

■prayers for our leaders – spiritual and political – that they will have clear minds and pure hearts, leading the way in cleansing our national political dialogue of hatred, disrespect, and personal attack.

As a note of interest, Disciples of Christ member Christy Moore commented on the reflection published to their Church Website, “Your response was Godly, timely and much needed for our nation and for our faith family as we search for answers. Directing us once again to the Throne of God, we will certainly, and as always, find the peace, hope and healing that we all seek.”

The Reverend Jefferson Beeker added his observations after reading the General Ministers comments, saying in full:

I too am saddened by the senselessness of this action.

However, this is NOT about political discourse, who is right and who is wrong, Tea Party, Fascists, or anything other than this is an individual who is suffering from a psychosis, most likely schizophrenia, and is not being treated.

After the healing process begins, our focus should not be on the political or societal “reason” that this happened and it should be on the poor mental health care that we have in the US. My son is a paranoid schizophrenic and while he is not violent, I have seen his ranting and writings when he is off of his medications. It is totally incomprehensible.

My prayer for recovery of those affected both directly and indirectly is offered as we need healing. But my prayer continues that we as a nation recognize that there are mentally ill persons among us and they need treatment. In some cases we need to force treatment although this is not allowed by law. Most likely this is a mentally ill individual has the same illness as the assassin of John Lennon and the attempted assassin of President Reagan.

There is no easy answer but this will happen again. This type of tragedy happens regularly in cities and towns across the US, it is just happens not as high of a profile as this tragedy.

Thanks for your calming words.

Thomas W. Shane, Doctor of Divinity, added his voice in prayers to the reflection, demonstrating a characteristic of the Church in their response to others and to leadership on issues of tragic concern:

In this world of chaos and hopelessness, this is a time when all Christians and others need to stand together and pray for the people. This young man has lost his way…we as a praying and caring people should pray that we all find God’s grace and mercy in this time of tragedy. Let’s pray for the victims, for the families of the victims, and for the young man who did such a horrible deed and for his family …only in God’s grace can we find healing and forgiveness…I pray God’s grace for us all.

It is evident in the fervor and heartfelt response of those commenting on the reflection that the spirit of the Church and of course the spirit of the God, of its members, and in the spirit of its head Jesus Christ, is reflected in their words, as they find Christ. This writer found Janet Ehrmantraut remarks particularly revealing and touching:

Thank you Sharon for your tender compassionate approach to this tragedy. Inclusive prayers for all touched by this wanton taking of humane productive life — including a nine year young girl of “incredible promise” — all six murdered lives and numerous injured including US Congresswoman Gabriella Giffords, all daughters & sons of a grieving God, of grieving families & personal loved ones of the killed and injured… and including prayers for the troubled Jared Lee Loughner, his family, and prayers for our nation.

Thank you also for your wisdom in not rushing to assign blame for this tragic event. There will be ample opportunity to sort out the dynamics that led Mr. Loughner to his horrific act. In the meantime, as you suggest, we can immediately “*act* — as Body of Christ and individually members of it” — to insure that we behave and speak in such a manner, that we help nurture to wellness & wholeness, those who for whatever reason of instability, may not be able to sufficiently distinguish between metaphoric speech and literalistic speech, *and* that in every respect as disciples/Disciples of Christ, we seek to incarnate as individuals and a community — “a movement for wholeness and healing and hope” that leaves God’s creation, a more gentle loving *divine milieu* as a result of our present journey.

Thanks for your gift of ministry and leadership for the CC(Dof) and beyond.

Update and note: The title phrase comes from William Sloane Coffin’s eulogy for his 24 year old son, Alex, who was killed in a car accident. Coffin’s exact words were: “God’s heart was the first of all our hearts to break.”

–General Minister

The church is identified with the Protestant “mainstream” and is widely involved in social and other concerns. Disciples have supported vigorously world and national programs of education, agricultural assistance, racial reconciliation, care of the developmentally disabled and aid to victims of war and calamity.

The denomination now counts about 700,000 members in the United States and Canada in about 3,700 congregations. Numerically, the strength of the Disciples of Christ runs in a broad arc that sweeps from Ohio and Kentucky through the Midwest and down into Oklahoma and Texas.

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