Prayers, praises and God’s providence
To the editor:
On behalf of the Suffolk Clergy United, we would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to those impacted by the mass shooting in Virginia Beach on May 31.
As ministers, we realize the effect a tragedy of this magnitude has on a community, yet we also know the goodness and love found in the people throughout Hampton Roads.
We ask everyone to offer prayers for the victims and their families so that they can find peace in this time of chaos. We ask for prayers for first responders who risked their own safety in the line of duty to help those in need. We ask for prayers for the clergy of Virginia Beach and the surrounding area who are working hard to nurture a broken community. We also ask for prayers for the shooter’s family, as they, too, have been traumatized by this incident. Finally, we ask for prayers for every member of the community as each one of us suffers.
We stand in solidarity with everyone who continues to hurt during this time. We are encouraged to see the community display deep acts of sacrificial love as we witness the community embrace, feed, nurture and support one another. These acts of gentleness, kindness and love model Jesus’ love for us. We praise God for the lives of heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice to save their brothers’ and sisters’ lives. We praise God for the responders who defended those who were vulnerable. We praise God for the doctors, nurses, counselors, friends, families and strangers who offered acute physical and emotional care. We praise God for a community of strength, encouragement, power and grace. We praise God that He remains with us despite the difficult days we will face.
We believe that God will shepherd us through this valley of the shadow of death, and we encourage all our neighbors to seek God’s guidance as we navigate through these storms. God promises that He will not forsake us or abandon us. May God’s peace be upon our community. May we never believe violent acts are the only answers to the challenges we face.
If you would like to give in support of the victims of this tragedy, the Virginia Beach City website has set up a link of ways people can help at loveforvb.com. A partnership with the United Way to raise funds for victims is available at unitedwayshr.org/vabeach. Volunteer Hampton Roads has set up a link to register volunteers that would like to give of their time in response to this tragedy at volunteerhr.org/opportunity/a0C1N00000clJ2yUAE. Finally, many church denominations are also collecting funds as part of their disaster assistance response ministry. Please respond as you feel led.
As we move forward from this tragedy, let us also consider how we can work as brothers and sisters in Christ to strengthen the ties in our own home of Suffolk and help neighbors and friends who may be struggling. May God be with us during this difficult time.
Rev. Dr. Matthew L. Winters, Pastor, Bethlehem Christian Church
Rev. Alan A. Cruz, Master Police Officer, Virginia Beach Police Department First Precinct, Pastor, Cypress Chapel Christian Church
Rev. Dr. Madelene Beard, Pastor, Galatians United Church of Christ
Rev. Dave Meadors, Pastor, Holy Neck Christian Church
Chaplain Gary Newsome, Spiritual Life, Lake Prince Woods
Rev. Rich Meiser, Pastor, Main Street United Methodist Church
Rev. Charles Leavell, Pastor, Open Hands Christian Fellowship
Rev. Rita Kanten, Pastor, Oxford United Methodist Church
Chaplain Braunda L. Ridley, Sentara Obici Hospital
Rev. Gillian Weighton, Pastor, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
Rev. Leslie Ferguson, Rector, St. John’s Episcopal Church
Father Emmanuel Tabi Mensah, Priest, St. Mary’s Catholic Church
Bishop Clarence Russell III, Senior Pastor, St. Paul’s Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. Keith Emerson, Pastor, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Rev. Michael H. Halley, Pastor, Suffolk Christian Church
Rev. Julie Sterling, Pastor, Suffolk Presbyterian Church
Pastor Trevon Boone, Pastor, Tabernacle Baptist Outreach Ministries
Bishop Carlton R. Upton Sr., Senior Pastor, Tabernacle Christian Church
Rev. Devon Blair, Pastor, Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church
Rev. Dale Wood Peterson, Pastor, West End Baptist Church
Rev. T.F. “Skip” Irby, Jr., retired