Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Over the past weekend, we experienced two unspeakable acts of gun violence on our nation’s soil, one in our own presbytery at the campus of Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, and the other at a neighborhood supermarket in Buffalo, NY. The United States is now up to 198 mass shootings in 2022 alone.
If you are like me, you are in shock and possibly numb. Maybe you’re angrier than you have ever felt. If you are Taiwanese or African American, well, I can’t even imagine the depths of your terror, pain, and extreme exhaustion; not to mention the total vulnerability that you must be experiencing when hate is aimed so pointedly in your direction.
None of us were in Buffalo on Saturday, and most of us were not present on Geneva’s campus on Sunday afternoon when an armed gunman walked into the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church luncheon and opened fire. Our physical distance from these events doesn’t necessarily lessen the impact of our shock. Yet, it’s our spiritual connection with our brothers and sisters of faith, and frankly all of humanity, that causes us pain when we are witnesses to hate and gun violence. And, so we grieve, as a presbytery, as citizens of this nation, as people of faith.
At this stage of our response, we have one mission, and that is to pray for all the victims of the recent shootings and those who are providing tangible and loving care to them. By doing so, we give them space to process their trauma, receive the resources they need, and eventually heal.
In the immediate aftermath of the crisis in Laguna Woods, the presbytery staff was in close communication with the leaders of Geneva Presbyterian Church and Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, informing them of the vast resources available to them through the presbytery and denomination. ITPC is a new worshiping community of the Presbytery and for the past ten years, their congregation has met at Geneva for worship and fellowship. Four experts in trauma recovery, all local, are ready to be called upon to help the leaders of Geneva and ITPC process their grief, and the rest of ours as well.
But allow me to make a critical distinction. Those of us who were not on campus on Sunday afternoon and are not members of Geneva or ITPC should give these congregations space to do the important work that they can only do for themselves, and for one another, drawing as they choose from the resources available to them. As a presbytery, we can protect this holy space for them as they grieve their loss and begin to take steps to heal. We might consider processing our grief separately, though in support of our siblings at ITPC and Geneva, by gathering for prayer and mutual support for our own sense of loss and sadness. As a presbytery, we have done well so far holding back the curious throngs that threaten their recovery and we must commit ourselves to protecting this healing path for as long as it takes.
At the beginning of this letter, I shared my initial reaction to the shootings and the challenge of coping. Other forms of stress are beginning to surface for me as well. Stanley Kim, a Board-Certified Chaplain and teaching elder in our presbytery with expertise in crisis recovery, has shared a resource that provides counsel to us as we care for our own emotional needs in the days ahead. It may be found by clicking here.
Please know that every part of our denomination is praying fervently for our congregations and our presbytery. Indeed, the Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson and the President of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Diane Moffett each called me to spend time in prayer for us. We are upheld by thousands of siblings in Christ who grieve alongside us and work with us to make God’s world a place where all can flourish without fear of violence.
In this moment where despair is tugging at our hearts, let us remember that “in life and in death, we belong God,” and that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Keeping faith with you as we support one another in love,
Presbytery Co-Executive for Vision and Mission/Head of Staff
P.S. For those that wish to send their financial help to ITPC, please give directly to Geneva/ ITPC, and select the dropdown tab: PDA-ITPC/Geneva Shooting: https://genevapres.churchcenter.com/giving