St Stephen’s Church, Vestavia Hills AL

Overnight, we learned of a mass shooting event at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Alabama. As I write this, two people were killed, an 84 year old man and a 75 year old woman, by a 71 year man who occasionally attended the church.
This is horrible news, and it feels so much closer to home, as the images and story seem so familiar to us as Episcopalians. It was a typical weeknight event at a typical congregation, and it went so terribly wrong. And yet, these sorts of shootings have become a typical experience for us in America. By the time I sat down to write this to you, I had trouble finding the news report online. It wasn’t featured anywhere.
We have been asked by the congregation, and their clergy, by their bishop and our Presiding Bishop to pray for them. I ask you to join me in this, particularly this weekend. Prayers alone are not enough, but we should feel some comfort in knowing that there is work being done at the Federal and State level to try to make these events less likely. Next week, Governor McKee will be signing three bills that represent common-sense reforms here in Rhode Island, and a bipartisan group of Senators in Washington DC have indicated they have an agreement in principle to take action in Congress. Pray for those who have been hurt and give thanks for those who are working to protect us all; first responders, activists and legislators.
Working with the RI Sheriff’s department, we have run two recent training sessions on active shooter response in churches. There are some specific things that we can do. If your congregation wasn’t represented at either of the last two trainings, and would like to participate, please let Joannie Collins, a member of my staff, know. ( A quick summary of basic principles taught in the training are found here.
Let us pray:
Almighty and merciful God, whose only Son came to preach peace to the nations: Hear us, we beseech You, and comfort us with Your steady Hand, as we come before You this [day/night] in the wake of unspeakable violence. In a world that seems hopeless, help us to remember that our hope rests always in You, and in the resurrection of Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.