Not another school shooting – Lord, have mercy!

Online prayer resources for shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school here

Timothy Merrill is the editor of Homiletics magazine. This is his prayer for Advent in light of the tragedy in Newtown.

Dear Colleagues in Ministry
I am writing to you in response to yet another massacre of innocents, the killings of twenty kindergarten children at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
This has become a much too common experience for us, yet we are numb with shock and grief. Sunday is Advent 3, when many churches will have families and children assist in lighting the third Advent candle of Joy. Perhaps you will want to keep that candle dark and extinguished this year, and light instead a Candle of Remembrance and Grief.

A Prayer for Comfort
Gentle, Compassionate,
Loving God,
Hear the cries of your joyless, sorrowful people.

Our prayers go out to the families of Newtown and Sandy Hook Elementary School who have experienced incomprehensible loss.

We come to you now with heavy hearts and in deep sorrow.

There is no joy on this Advent Sunday of joy,
This was a slaughter of innocents,
Twenty kindergarten children, perhaps scribbling
Christmas cards in crayon for their parents-gunned down.
The parents–They’re burdened now with unfathomable grief.
Their pain and numbness must be beyond words and thoughts.

We cry out and ask WHY God,
WHY this carnage at Christmas?
As we celebrate a child born in Bethlehem,
The lives of children scarcely out of the cradle
are snuffed out and gone forever except in our hearts.

With the prophet of old we cry out,
“Oh that my head were a spring of water
And my eyes a fountain of tears!
I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.
Is there no balm in Gilead?
Why then is there no healing
For the wound of my people?”

We do not understand.
Why Lord?
We plead with you for answers.

Until we hear from you O God, we cannot light a candle of joy,
We light instead a candle of Remembrance, a candle of Grief and Sorrow,
And we remember that You weep with us.

In the weeping and mourning, may we feel Your Eternal Presence,
and may we know Your Comforting Spirit covering us as a warm blanket of peace.

In the name of Jesus Christ, who suffered for us
And who now suffers with us.

God of the broken-hearted,
God of the broken heart,
Receive our sighs
too deep for words.
In your time
by your grace
heal us.
In this meantime
hold us
as we weep.
Hold us and rock us
with the rhythm
of your own
body. Amen.
Joanna Harader, Spacious Faith

Holy God, There are no words.  There is nothing that we can say but instead we cry out.  We cry out in shared grief and pain for the loss of so many children.  We do not understand, and we cannot imagine why someone would murder, why someone would justify this act of violence.  We cannot comprehend.

We come to You in prayer, but our prayer is jumbled. We pray for the families who are grieving.  We pray for those who are wounded and recovering.  We pray for those adults who put themselves in harm’s way to protect others.  We pray for those children that have witnessed this horrific tragedy and will live with this for the rest of their lives.

Our grief is raw. The wound gapes open and we do not know how to stop it.  But we call upon You, O Lord, to comfort those who mourn, to bind-up the brokenhearted.

It is Hanukkah, it is Advent, many are now preparing for the rest of Hanukkah and Christmas without their loved one.  God, we surround them with our prayers, for we know not what else we can do.  We surround them with our love, knowing that You are with them, that You hold them close.

Call us together as a community, and as a nation, loving God, to work to end violence, to build a safer community and safer schools for our children.  In this time, help us to come together, for we are stronger together than we are alone, and we know Your comfort and love is shared when we are together.

Keep us close, O God. Help us to turn to each other, to seek the help we need, to build up instead of tearing down.  Guide us with wisdom in how we teach our children, and work to end this violence.  Loving God, help us to know You are always with us, and You are grieving with us now.

In Your name we pray.  Amen.

A prayer for Newtown

Rev Sarah Agnew: I wrote this originally after the shooting in Oslo in July, 2011. I have adapted it in the wake of this latest tragedy. 

God, there are lots of words we want to say to you,
lots of people we want to pray for with you,
places we want to give into your care.

Today we want to say things to you about Connecticut –
we want to say, Why?
We want to say – No!

We pray with you for the people of Newtown
those who have died,
their family and friends who have lost sisters, brothers,
children, friends …
so many of them so small, young, vulnerable …
the people of the city and the country whose hearts are breaking –
our hearts are breaking with them,
and we know your heart is breaking too.

We pray for the emergency services people finding the broken bodies
healing the wounded,
searching for the missing,
protecting the living.

We pray for the person who has done this terrible thing
for his troubled soul,
his family and friends who survive him …
and we pray for those who are investigating:
may calmness and wisdom guide them.

We give to you what is your land,
the country of the United States of America
may you be known there as peace and love.
We pray for the lawmakers of that land,
holding in tension the interests of many groups in the community,
and seeking to protect the lives of their people.

May we not forget the town and the people of Newtown
in the weeks and months as they heal.

In the Loop – a poem by Bob Hicok

I heard from people after the shootings. People
I knew well or barely or not at all. Largely
the same message: how horrible it was, how little
there was to say about how horrible it was.
People wrote, called, mostly e-mailed
because they know I teach at Virginia Tech,
to say, there’s nothing to say. Eventually
I answered these messages: there’s nothing
to say back except of course there’s nothing
to say, thank you for your willingness
to say it. Because this was about nothing.
A boy who felt that he was nothing,
who erased and entered that erasure, and guns
that are good for nothing, and talk of guns
that is good for nothing, and spring
that is good for flowers, and Jesus for some,
and scotch for others, and “and” for me
in this poem, “and” that is good
for sewing the minutes together, which otherwise
go about going away, bereft of us and us
of them. Like a scarf left on a train and nothing
like a scarf left on a train. As if the train,
empty of everything but a scarf, still opens
its doors at every stop, because this
is what a train does, this is what a man does
with his hand on a lever, because otherwise,
why the lever, why the hand, and then it was over,
and then it had just begun.

Source: Poetry (February 2010).


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Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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