Monday’s tragedy will forever be with us. Yet what I did not anticipate is the outpouring of solidarity, support and prayer that has come to us from near and far. (Read some of those messages here.) Like so many of you, I have heard from friends, family, loved ones, and colleagues from throughout the UCC – all offering consolation and prayers. In the shock, seeing the images, hearing the interviews – people everywhere see their own faces; and then they whisper: “but for the grace of God go I”; and then they write or call their friend in Massachusetts. Tragedy brings out caring and courage. But this remains a tragedy. And our hearts remain broken, while Jesus stands embracing the fallen, the wounded, the broken and the shocked.
Dan Smith and the staff of First Church Cambridge sent out a prayer that included this: “Scripture invites us to 'love our enemies' and so we also pray, if we are able, for those responsible for today's terrible violence.” I have been working on that since Monday afternoon. This is one of Jesus’ most difficult assignments. My heart is struggling to lift this/these perpetrator(s) before God. I’m confident in God’s capacity to forgive – but I’m less sure of my own.
For all the ways our Conference chaplains, pastors and church leaders have sought to mend the broken hearted, I give thanks. Strength and courage to you all in this time of testing.
Jim Antal is a denominational leader, activist and public theologian. He led the 360 churches of the Massachusetts Conference United Church of Christ from 2006 to his retirement in 2018. An environmental activist from the first Earth Day in 1970, ...