Dear Parents and Youth,
On February 14, 2018, a former student entered the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida with an AR-15-style semi-automatic weapon. In 7 minutes, he killed 17 students and adults. In February of 1893, Presbyterians first participated in the Universal Day of Prayer for Students, lifting to God the lives of children, teenagers and young adults. In February of 2019, these two anniversaries coincide in a way that calls the church to take seriously the steps needed to protect students and all of us from the crisis of gun violence in our nation.
In June 2019, the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) marked 50 years of GA statements calling for practical steps to prevent gun violence in America, beginning in 1968. Over these five decades of GA statements, most of us in our local congregations have done little, if anything, to respond. We have not known how to help on this issue. Now our country faces an epidemic of gun violence with over 36,000 Americans killed by guns in the last year alone. Mass shootings claim the headlines but there is also the daily despair of murders, accidents, suicides and domestic gun violence. God calls the church to find its unique role in helping our nation both grieve and change. Dare we pray for our students and not protect them from gun violence?
There is no single solution to gun violence. But, out of the Parkland, FL shooting, a movement has arisen among students to lead us to a new consensus on a range of actions that can work together to save lives. This new consensus requires communities that can bring together those of us who own guns and those of us who do not to find middle ground for change and to see it through. Perhaps this task of bringing people together is the unique role that the church and other communities of faith can offer our students and our nation.
Sunday February 17th is the Universal Day of Prayer for Students. Pastor Steve won't be leading us in worship. Judy Wadsworth will be our guest preacher and has been given resources including prayers, hymns and scripture for worship. I am also working with the worship committee to include a prayer wreath for all of our youth. Information on that will be provided on that Sunday if all works out.
Gun violence is something youth across our country unfortunately have dealt with for the past few years. It isn't something that we have discussed in youth group but we want to kids to know that we are open to their thoughts, ideas and suggestions. Kids are speaking out, getting involved and grabbing attention in the media. More information can be found here.
A Presbyterian Prayer for Action
Gracious God, whose mercy never ends,
whose Spirit brings the Kairos moment for change:
We confess our past willingness to abide the deaths of over one million, six hundred thousand souls lost to gun violence since 1968 -- the children, the parents, the distraught, as well as millions more injured, ruined, orphaned, widowed. Help us to comprehend this carnage and not become numb.
We give thanks for the long witness of the General Assembly and all Presbyterians who are already engaged in preventing gun violence.
We thank you for raising up the students to lead us with marches, walk-outs and passion born of pain.
We call upon you, Lord; we have nowhere else to turn. Galvanize all of us,
every congregation in the Presbyterian Church. Wake us up in our pews and our lives; do not let Christ find us asleep on this watch. Rather, Lord, grant to our church members, both those of us who own guns and those of us who do not, a unity of purpose to change the national debate on gun violence. Show us the path.
At all the places where you are proclaimed, give us courage to stand against principalities and powers. Grant us the joy of using the gifts that you provide -- energy, intelligence, imagination and love-- to help our communities and our nation heal from this tragedy and sorrow. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
Commended to the Churches by the 223rd General Assembly, PC(USA)
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Youth group meetings/activities are held once a month and are open to middle and high school students. Signed permission forms are required to attend all youth events.
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