Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Susquehanna Conference,
Grace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, Healer of our Brokenness, and Hope of the World!
My United Methodist Episcopal colleague from South Carolina, Bishop L. Jonathan Holston, spoke about the recent tragedy at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.: “The reality is that no one is unaffected. We are all impacted by the horror that occurred in this place of worship.” Indeed, we are. We have seen the evidence of evil and felt its extreme pain. We wonder how many more horrendous acts of hatred and racism will happen before they are stopped in our country. We know that such acts are a deliberate violation of the teachings of Jesus and bring deep grief to the heart of God.
We are partners in the gospel with Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church within our larger Methodist connection. They too, like us, trace their history to the Methodist movement and John Wesley. Regrettably, it was because of racial attitudes and tensions in the past that many early African-Americans felt led to establish their own denominations and churches. Despite the years of progress that our nation has made in regards to racial relations, we still have a long journey to make. I would ask that we all take a time to be in prayer and silence in our worship services this Sunday to invite God’s comforting and caring presence to surround the families directly affected by the senseless act, their congregation, and their communities.
We have seen once again the evidence of evil in the tragedy at this historic church. Yet we are called to be a church in witness that demonstrates to the world that there is another force that is greater than evil. Now is the time for prayer and healing. This is also the time to seek what we can do to overcome the evil of racism and hatred. We must continue to preach in words and acts a gospel of love and forgiveness, justice and reconciliation, and the vision of the beloved community that can bring hope and peace to this broken world.
I know that you want to be the best that you can be as a child of God. So I know that I can count on you to be that witness that enhances God’s intention for the world where everyone is embraced as God’s beloved of one family. Let our commitment to be instruments of God’s future grow stronger for such a time as this.
Grace and Peace,
† Jeremiah J. Park