Newtown UMC becomes help center after school shootings nearby

By United Methodist News Service, …

Members of Newtown United Methodist Church in Sandy Hook, Conn., are “still holding our breath” to learn the full impact of the Dec. 14 shooting at nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School, said the Rev. Mel Kawakami, the church’s senior pastor.

“We’re trying to keep our lines open,” he said. “We have already tried to reach out. We have communications circles that are trying to canvass our congregation.”

Reports indicate that 28 are dead, including 20 children and six adults at the school, plus the gunman and his mother. This is the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. The deadliest was the Virginia Tech incident in 2007 where the gunman killed 32 people and then himself. This shooting came less than a week after a gunman killed two holiday shoppers across the country at an Oregon mall.

The Sandy Hook, Conn., church — which has about 600 members — is within walking distance of the elementary school. Mr. Kawakami said the church already is serving as a respite center for Red Cross first responders, and its sanctuary is open for prayer. The church also plans a prayer vigil at 7 p.m. EST Dec. 14.

“We are in the midst of Advent, and the light is coming,” Kawakami said. “And we are praying for the light.”

President Obama struggled with emotion in addressing the tragedy.

“We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years. Each time I hear the news, I react not as president, but as a parent. That’s especially the case today,” he said. “Many of the victims were between 5 and 10 years of age. They had their entire lives ahead of them.  … Our hearts are broken today.”

Prayers and reactions began appearing on social media right after the shooting.

“Years ago, on a Holy Land tour, I visited Rachel’s tomb. People of all ages surrounded her tomb weeping and praying for their children,” wrote Deen Thompson, lay leader of Edgehill United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tenn., on Facebook. “Today this experience and words from the Bible become today’s reality. ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted because they are no more.’ God help us…”

The Rev. Beth A. Richardson, editor of “Alive Now” magazine,  published by Upper Room, offered this prayer: “Loving God, comfort your people in the midst of the tragedy of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Comfort all who mourn, God of Healing. We pray to you, Amen.”

The United Methodist Church is offering a prayer wall on Facebook.

The denomination’s communications agency, United Methodist Communications, also is planning to place messages of support and hope in local newspapers.

The United Methodist Board of Discipleship is offering resources for parents, teachers and caregivers.

In addition, the United Methodist Publishing House’s Ministry Matters site has a resource page offering advice for helping children cope with a tragedy.

The General Board of Discipleship also is sharing its tips in this regard.



Special Contributor to UMR

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