by Diane Degnan*, Cathy Lynn Grossman** and Vance Morton***
United Methodists offer prayer and comfort after Boston bombings
As investigators search for answers, the people of The United Methodist Church offer prayer, comfort and resources for healing in the aftermath of Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon.
“United Methodists from all over the world mourn with those who are mourning,” said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council of Bishops and bishop of the Germany Episcopal Area. “May God comfort and guide all who are troubled; and may United Methodists in Boston, in the U.S. and all over the world, unite with all Christians and all people of faith to serve as peace builders.”
Upon learning of the tragic events that unfolded near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, Bishop Mike Lowry, resident bishop of the Central Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church, said, “I ask the good people of Central Texas to be prayer for all those involved in the bombing of the Boston Marathon. May we remember especially those families who lost loved ones, those who were injured in this senseless tragedy and all those engaged in rescue efforts and healing work. May God’s grace and mercy flow on them.”
United Methodist Communications, the global communications agency of The United Methodist Church, will publicize a message of caring and hope on Wednesday in the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald. An image of hands folded in prayer is accompanied by the message, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Boston. Through the darkness, we come together in search of the light. The people of The United Methodist Church join with all of those in Boston affected by this recent tragedy. To understand. To heal. To find hope.”
The denomination is asking people around the globe to leave prayers for those affected by the attacks in Boston on their Facebook page at facebook.com/unitedmethodistchurch.
The United Methodist General Board of Discipleship has created a list of resources to help those affected cope with the bombings. Resources include articles on how to deal with trauma (including how to talk with children about the events in Boston), hymns and songs in response to terrorism, music for an offertory prayer song and a special hymn about coping with terrorism, appropriate calls to worship, and an act of praise response to terrorism. You can find the resources at gbod.org/live-the-um-way/terrorism-and-violence.
Bombing provokes prayers and the search for answers.
Prayers require no press conferences with platoons of experts. Prayers require no cellphone connections. They just fly from our mouths to God’s ears.
So do our questions.
In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon attack, the voices of faith -- from the pope to pastors across the country to the millions unnamed who turned to God to petition for healing and comfort -- are asking the eternal question: Why?
In a letter to the New England Conference, Boston Area Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar wrote, “We are truly saddened by the news that just came regarding the explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Along with you I grieve for those that lost their lives and their families, and for those injured in this tragic event. In moments like this, we do not know what to say or how to say it, but will you join me in the prayer of the psalmist, ‘God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble.’”
Pope Francis sent word Tuesday morning to Cardinal Sean O'Malley, archbishop of Boston, that he was "deeply grieved" by the attack. The Vatican said Francis "invokes God's peace upon the dead, His consolation upon the suffering and His strength upon all those engaged in the continuing work of relief and response."
Francis also prayed that all would be "united in a resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good, working together to build an ever more just, free and secure society for generations yet to come."
His words echoed Cardinal O'Malley's own statement of deep sorrow and prayer issued Monday night. In addition to his words of comfort for all touched by the death and injuries, O'Malley praised the first responders and the citizens of the city and the region for their "bravery and heroism."
Christian believers would find help and hope in Christ and "stand in solidarity with our ecumenical and interfaith colleagues in the commitment to witness the greater power of good in our society and to work together for healing," Cardinal O'Malley said.
Ed Stetzer, a Baptist pastor and president of LifeWay Research, a Christian research agency based in Nashville, blogged Monday that the tragedy drives us to cry out as the it says in the Bible, "Come quickly, Lord' and set things right."
Stetzer shared words from Boston area pastors such as Brandon Levering, pastor of Westgate Church, Weston, Mass, who devoted a blog post to defeating the fear instilled by terrorism. "…There is one thing on earth that no bomb can shake, and no terror can overcome: your presence… As our city quakes from the effects of sin in this world -- the evil, the violence, the injuries and loss of life -- we pray that your holy and healing presence would be made known," Levering wrote.
The troubling, persistent, demanding question of "Why?" is also addressed by Adam Mabry, pastor of Boston's Aletheia Church. His answer is the same as Levering's - sin. "All of us--friends and enemies, kings and peasants -- are touched and marred by this reality," Mabry said. "What are we to think when tragedy mingles with beauty? When pain accompanies grace? When blood spills with tears?" asks Mabry, who offers the Christian answer of turning to Jesus.
"I'm praying for my city. I'm praying for the victims. I'm praying for the first responders. I'm praying for families. But most of all, I'm praying for that grace which comes from God alone to overcome all that besets her."
Jewish voices also spoke of prayer and gratitude for human goodness.
Benjamin David, rabbi of Adath Emanu-El in Mount Laurel, N.J., and Rabbi Scott Weiner, senior rabbi of Temple Israel of New Rochelle, had just completed the marathon on Monday before the blasts. The rabbis are co-founders of The Running Rabbis, which encourages clergy and congregants to run for charity, and they ran for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
David told the Jewish news agency JTA that beyond the violence of the Monday attack, "what I also saw was a day of togetherness and community and caring and support -- much like the marathon itself. Every marathon is about celebrating the human spirit and supporting one another. It's about people from around the country and around the world, from different backgrounds and different religions running together.”
"Tragedy reduces things to the most primal and most important factors," David said. "Family, friends, community and what strangers need help."
Laura Barrett, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches statement quoted Jeremiah 33:6: "Behold, I will bring health and healing to the city; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth."
Her statement, echoed by the National Council of Churches in their release Tuesday, also included prayers to "preserve us from quick judgments" and for the strength to be "steadfast in charity, defiant in hope, and constant in prayer."
Barrett included words from the African-American spiritual, Guide my feet, "Guide my feet while I run this race, for I don't want to run this race in vain.
*Diane is a member of the United Methodist Communications & Media team. firstname.lastname@example.org
***Vance is the director of Communications & IT for the Central Texas Conference. email@example.com