UMs offer and find support after Boston Marathon bombings

 

Bishop Devadhar

Evil struck on Monday, April 15th, but by Tuesday it was clear evil did not have the last word.

United Methodists in Boston and around the globe testified to the ways they saw God in action after two explosions shattered the peace of the Boston Marathon, claiming at least three lives and leaving more than 170 injured.

“In our world, evil is alive and well,” said the Rev. Jim Kinder. “The reality is that that one act of evil … began an onslaught of just the hands and feet of people doing the work of God, right here loving people and caring for people.”

The pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile, Ala., completed the Boston Marathon about an hour before the bombs detonated. It was his first time at the event, which drew participants from 96 countries.

“As soon as I got out of the shower, my phone was lit up with people texting and calling me,” he said. “In fact, my senior pastor, (the Rev.) Jeff Spiller, was the first person to text me and asked if I was all right.”

He said he could see God at work in the faith community reaching out to check that he was safe. He also witnessed God among the people of Boston.

After the attack, he said, people at the race could not get back to their checked bags, so locals downtown helped people find cabs and even offered strangers places to stay.

“The people of Boston have been incredible,” he said. “You walk around in your race jacket, and everybody is really going out of their way.”

UM response

Boston Area Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, who leads the New England Conference, said in a letter to the conference that the “outpouring of love and support from friends and colleagues in our United Methodist connection has been overwhelming and wonderful.”

Even before the bombings, United Methodists around the Boston area were cheering and volunteering along the marathon route.

Union United Methodist Church — about a 10-minute walk from the finish line — opened its sanctuary Monday afternoon to those needing warmth, comfort and prayer, said the church’s lead pastor, the Rev. Jay Williams.

“Although most of the runners/spectators had left the area, we did receive a handful of folk,” he said. “We are in process of coordinating our long-term response now.”

Janjay Innis, a student at United Methodist Boston University School of Theology and ministry associate at Union, said the students at the seminary wore running shoes to class on Tuesday as a sign of solidarity with the marathoners. The students also planned to hold a prayer vigil Tuesday night, April 16th.

The seminarian planned to join thousands of students from the Boston area universities who committed to run five miles on Friday, April 19th, to honor those who because of the attacks could not complete the race.

Bishop Devadhar noted that United Methodist churches around Massachusetts would  — like Union — be opening their sanctuaries and offering prayer services.

The bishop told United Methodist News Service that one of the best things people can do to help right now is: “pray, pray, pray.”

He urged United Methodists to take comfort in the words of Isaiah 58:9: “Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”

Forgiveness and fear

But Bishop Devadhar and others acknowledged that people still have questions about how such a tragedy could occur and how people can forgive those responsible.

Germany Area Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, the president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops,issued a statement calling for prayer for God’s presence “with the victims, their families, and those who seek to heal the wounded and bring order to chaos.” She also called for prayers for the perpetrators.

“Even though we are aghast because of this brutal act of violence, as followers of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ, we do not satisfy our desire for revenge,” she said.

Mr. Kinder said he saw God in the sense of community that’s followed the tragedy.

“When disaster happens, we just hang up our labels and we come together,” Mr. Kinder said. “I think that is the work of God in us. It doesn’t matter if you are white, black … Jewish, Christian. That’s the Spirit of God that he created in us.”

 

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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)
 
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