AN OPEN LETTER TO PASTORS of LINN COUNTY & JOHNSON COUNTY, IOWA
It’s happened once again. On Ash Wednesday, February 14th, Valentine’s Day, 2018, our nation again experienced the unspeakable horror of yet another shooting spree at a public school. This time it was in Florida. Next time will it be here in Iowa City, or Cedar Rapids, or Solon, or Marion?
Yes, our thoughts and prayers go out to those who experienced the heart-breaking loss of loved ones in Florida. Psalm 34:18 states: “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and rescues these who are crushed in spirit.” And on Sunday morning, people of faith, my church included, will gather to pray for all those who are grieving because of this senseless tragedy, asking God for His mercy, grace and protection from evil.
But here’s the rub.
On Monday morning, after all of us pastors and church leaders have comforted our congregations and pointed them to God, what’s next? Where do we go from here?
Following this week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, one student who witnessed the massacre is making a bold plea to city, state, and national leaders:
“We’re children. You guys are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together, come over your politics, and get something done.”
Perhaps we can hear this student’s cry for help and remember that our Good Book states that faith without works is dead?
Pastor Greg Stier, who lives in Denver, is all too familiar with school shootings. The 1999 massacre at Columbine High School caused him to actually leave the ministry. His wife is a public-school teacher in the same school district as Columbine and he knew many teens who went to Columbine. He said the news rattled him to the core and he spent many days after the shooting talking to and praying with teenagers who had been impacted. As a result, he resigned from his Denver area church and started a ministry mobilizing teenagers to reach other teenagers at risk. In the light of Wednesday’s tragedy, Stier recommends pastors encourage their church members to support local schools.
“It is time for churches to stop demonizing public schools and start reaching out to them. Let’s provide adults to support teachers, to help them grade papers, read with children and be available to serve. It may not prevent school shootings, but the more adults there are in a school, the better the chance that kids can be protected or taken to a safe place in an emergency situation.”
The church has been described as a field hospital after battle. America feels like a battleground after Wednesday’s carnage at a South Florida school. It’s in times like these that the church can fulfill its divine mission stated in Galatians 6:10, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.”
So as leaders in our communities, might I ask what might we do right now to help protect our children here in Eastern Iowa? Might I suggest that we begin by talking with principals and teachers of our local schools, inviting them to tell us what they need going forward? Maybe it’s more hall monitors? Maybe it’s parents and caring friends coming alongside teenagers at risk? Maybe it’s…whatever is needed to stop this type of senseless tragedy from ever darkening the hallways of our public schools here in our communities.
Cedar Rapids, IA