“Breathless, Overwhelmed, and Afraid”Apr 04, 2023
It’s been one week since the school shooting here in Nashville, Tennessee, the city I have called home for some thirty years. The depravity of the incident is heartbreaking; the support from our community, beautiful. I visited the memorial site at the entrance to the school a few days ago and was overcome by the sadness and the compassion, right there alongside one another in the people who reached out to hug strangers, their fellow pilgrims. Right there nestled into the flowers, stuffed animals, and notes that lined both sides of the school entrance.
On Sunday, my preacher said a reporter had asked him, “What do you say to your people on a day like this?”
“Well, at first I had no words," he responded. "You don’t say anything. You open your doors, you open your arms. And you shut your mouth. It's presence more than anything else. Tonight we’re not here to explain. We’re here to weep. And to pray.” (Reverend Davis Chappell, Brentwood United Methodist Church, Brentwood, Tennessee)
Indeed, I think there are times when mere words just don’t cut it, and I’m a longtime lover and respecter of words. For now, when I am speechless, I will soak in the spirit of this prayer penned by another pastor from my church.
—Amy Lyles Wilson
"A Prayer in Response to the Covenant School Shooting"
O God of peace, I come to you breathless. Overwhelmed. Afraid and completely broken-hearted.
How has it gotten this dangerous to be a child? How has going to school become a life-threatening choice? The violence at The Covenant School today is a crime, a loss, a shock, an evil, and a tragedy all in one. A violation of your good commandment.
The three beloved children who went to school to learn and play and grow. The three beloved staff members who went to work to serve and help.
While life cannot be restored, I trust that hope can be.
Lord Jesus, as I turn to you in this tragedy, I first lay my heart before you. My heart is broken open. These are my neighbors. This is my community. And so I call on you to make righteous my anger, bring peace to my mind, and open my heart to compassion. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.
Lord Jesus, I lay before you each mom and each dad who is now forever changed by the news that they will not be reuniting with their child today. In their deep grief, and their anger, and their questions, cover them in confidence that you are closer to them than the air they breathe. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.
Lord Jesus, I lay before you each brother and sister. Each grandma and grandpa. Each spouse and child and cousin and aunt and uncle and friend whose hearts are broken. Draw them together as families and draw each family close to your Spirit. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.
Lord Jesus, I lay before you each student who witnessed a life-changing tragedy today. Who has seen terrible things and heard terrible sounds. Each student who will wonder why. Who will question their safety. Each student who has lost innocence and security. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.
Lord Jesus, I lay before you The Covenant School. They have devoted their lives to shepherding hearts, empowering minds, and celebrating childhood. Bless the road ahead as they seek peace, claim their mission, and find their way forward. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.
Lord Jesus, I lay before you each first responder. Each officer who heard the calls on their radios. Each officer who stepped into the school. For their steady minds and courageous hearts. Each EMT and doctor and nurse who suffered with the patients they cared for. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.
Lord Jesus, I lay before you the shooter. I don’t know her name yet, but you do.* You called her beloved. You wept with her when she was hurting. And while this unfathomably evil act was her plan, her doing, I know it wasn’t yours. I know this was not your will for her life or for your world. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.
Lord Jesus, I pray for a future where this story is no longer told. Where gun violence is uncommon. Where our policies aim to protect our children. Where we lay aside fear and complacency and greed and take on wisdom and action and compassion. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.
With gratitude to Reverend Casey Orr, Brentwood United Methodist Church, Brentwood, Tennessee, for this prayer she wrote in response to a school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 27, 2023. Used with permission.
*It has now been reported that the shooter identified with male pronouns.
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