Dear Bethel-Bethany Members and Friends,

As the LGBTQ Community was celebrating Gay Pride this weekend at the Festival Grounds in Milwaukee and as the Gay Community was celebrating liberation and increased acceptance and freedom in many parts of the United States, fifty of God’s Children were tragically murdered in an Orlando Night Club and many more wounded by a lone gunman with a military style assault rifle and a hand gun.

We will never fully understand the perpetrator’s motivations. There is no justification for his actions. If his act of terror was religiously motivated, reasonable people will understand that he does not represent everyone in his larger faith community, just as we could never claim to represent everyone in the whole Christian Community or even in our church. To blame all of Islam for a terrorist act is to consider blaming all of Christianity for the actions of a person like Timothy McVeigh, who was one of the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and other so-called Christians who have initiated acts of terror and violence against innocent people.

No matter who the gunman was or what his motivation, it was a brutal act of violence that was made possible by the easy access to weapons of mass destruction. In effect, the power to kill and destroy the lives of many was in the hands of one person, who was apparently filled with hatred and possibly mentally ill. It’s beyond my understanding to think that anyone could justify the need to have a military style weapon and why we allow the gun lobby to have such power over the legislative process. I am not opposed to hunting, target shooting or even the need for some to have a gun in their home for perceived protection, but I fail to understand why a number of people oppose creating rational laws that would make it more difficult to purchase a gun and make it impossible to own a weapon that could kill or maim a hundred people in a matter of minutes.

Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of those who died and those who were wounded. We pray for healing for the Orlando community and the nation. And our thoughts and prayers are with the LGBTQ community and all who live in fear of violence potentially directed at a group because of their sexual orientation, the color of their skin or their religious or cultural background. When one groups’ freedom to live in wholeness and peace is threatened everyone’s freedom is put at risk.

Through the life and proclamation of Jesus, we are set free to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God. Jesus calls us love God with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our strength, and all of our mind and our neighbors as ourselves; and yes, even to love our enemies.

May we be resolved and strengthened to work as a community of faith to offer whatever support we can to the LGBTQ Community in our church, in our city, and in the country. May we also work diligently to bring peace to the streets of Milwaukee where so many black lives and the lives of others have fallen victim to violence and the proliferation of guns in our society.

It’s time to continue to work diligently and faithfully together to end violence and to go further in our efforts to work for peace in our neighborhood(s), in the city, in the nation, and beyond. May God give us the wisdom and the strength to take action.

the coming days, I will keep you informed as to where and when vigils may be happening in the community. If anyone in our community would like time to be in prayer in the Bethel-Bethany sanctuary, I will do everything possible to make that happen. I also want you to know that I would be available to you pastorally, if you need to talk or are in need of personal prayer. I’m sure that pastors in our congregation and in the UCC would also be more than willing to be available to you, as well.

As we mourn with the family and friends of those who died, may we pray for peace with justice and may we strive to live with compassion for all God’s Children.

May God’s Love Bring Deep Healing and Hope,

Pastor Tim