Pastor of Newtown UMC writes of ‘new normal’ after massacre

By Mel Kawakami

One month ago, a young gunman walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School just down the street from Newtown United Methodist Church and killed 20 precious children and six brave adults. It has been a long and difficult 30 days here in Sandy Hook, and we are just beginning to find our way out of the chaos and confusion.

The memorials are gone. The traffic flows as normal. The media trucks have disappeared and the oily stink of their diesel generators has lifted from Sandy Hook village. School has started again, albeit six miles away instead of up the hill. And the answer to the question, “where are you from?” has been irrevocably changed from casual chat to a lump-in-your-throat pain.

Mel Kawakami

But out of that darkness, we saw a great light. Not only the message that God is with us even “through the valley of the shadow of death” but also, that there is “light in the darkness and the darkness shall not overcome it.” Advent expectations gave way to Christmas light; God’s word and the world were hand-in-hand. The bishop and district superintendent came. The United Methodist Committee on Relief and United Methodist Communications were here. A flame from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in Israel arrived as a visible reminder of hope and faith. And then the cards and letters and gifts started; our social media was flooded and the telephones did not stop ringing. Your outpouring of love and care supported us in our moment of need, and we are deeply grateful.Our church pulled together in ways that could only be described as Spirit-filled. Trustees and our Pre-school Board greeted visitors at the door and our Stephen Ministers list ened to those who came to cry and pray. Others coordinated with the Red Cross and the media who camped out in our parking lot. When they got tired, sister churches provided help. Our members answered the phones, opened mail and cataloged gifts. Others sat in homes during funerals and others made meals and made sure we were fed. It was amazing grace to see the Body of Christ come together in a crisis.

We’re thankful for the support we’ve received; it has carried us through the darkness. Please continue to hold us in prayer.

Hope and healing are long-term goals.  Many of you continue to ask, “What can we do to help?” What can we do that will become a lasting legacy to those who lost their lives on December 14, 2012?

The bears and angels and flowers have been transformed into a compost destined for the memorial that will be built for them. So what do we do before this tragedy fades from the national psyche . . . until the next tragedy?

Consider at least two things. One is to address the larger cause of social justice, personally and institutionally, that includes access to mental health resources, diminishing gun violence and lowering the tolerance of violence in our society.

Second, our prayer in the New Year is that God will rekindle our United Methodist membership vows for prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. We ask that you find some way to honor a child or children in your congregation or community within those vows.

We also ask that you let us know what you’ve done, so that we can share with the world.  Your notes will comfort us in our mourning and be an ongoing memorial to our little ones. To post a response, please visit the Newtown United Methodist Church website.

The Rev. Mel Kawakami is pastor of Newtown UMC. His essay comes via United Methodist News Service.



Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to


  1. johnadams says:

    Common sense is the harbor where loving and respectful minds go to lay down the law which will protect future young people. Those who resist common sense, will be seen as who they are. We saw some of those callous resistors, tonight of Piers Morgan and AC360. We also saw those of us who are hurting for common sense to prevail. When I was drafted in 1968, I began my quest to heal, and hurt for those who died too soon. Together, we will bring all the common sense to the argument. God bless those who do not cower to the callous or the confused. Gabby Gifford is on our side. We will overcome. In the name of those at Aurora, Sandy Hook, and all of those neighborhoods. Mothers and fathers, we are coming to help………….stop the insanity. God, please help those who just cannot see, and hear us.


    My ancestor, Abigail Adams, is in Heaven, praying for us to get a grip on gun control. She is praying for, and having the ear of God, to back Obama and Biden, to get the NRA leaders, to realize, this is not the 1800s. It is time to get control of the landslide of weapons, who a minority of people think we need to defeat a tyrannical government. Abigail Adams wonders, how many children have to die, for us to realize the problem is not a tyrannical government. The problems have gone way past that. Abigail, and the other Adams', did not have to conceive of people driving drunk, stoned or on cellphones. Do we have the right to kill, because we are Americans, and we see America as a special land, where all are free to do what they want. All are not free, when we have to bury our loved ones, after so-called free individuals exercise their so-called freedoms. Sen. Harry Reid, get some gumption and stand with the trend. Don't block the movement, by not doing your duty to God and your country. Let the Democrats in the Senate, show they care more about children, and less about getting re-elected. The Founding Fathers, have the ear of God, and want you, Harry Reid, to do the right thing. Get the legislation flowing. Stop the insanity. Please. God bless the many, who are moving to save our children. don't let anyone, tell you it won't do any good. We passed laws to stop people from texting while driving." God bless Piers Morgan, for his fortitude – standing in there against the winds from the callous and the confused. With the legalization of marijuana, we will get even more mentally unstable people, who need to be included in the gun control issues. As a former infantry Sgt., and drug councilor, please stop the insanity. We don't need so many guns, drugs, and other forces which dement our thinking, and our responses to tragedy. Our children depend on us to be better people, day-in and day-out, and to learn from our legislative mistakes or thinking.


    God bless Reverend Mel, for his voice during a traumatic time, and during his future service to our children.

Speak Your Mind

The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)


%d bloggers like this: