Dear members and friends of the Pacifica Synod,
While traveling on the island of Borneo, visiting our sister synod the Basel Christian Church of Malaysia, we heard the awful news of the shooting in Thousand Oaks at the Borderline Bar and Grill. Thousand Oaks is the city where California Lutheran University is located, and many Cal Lutheran students frequent Borderline. The University has reported that no active students were victims, but a recent graduate, 23-year-old Justin Meeks, was one of those who was killed. We mourn with the University, and with his family, over his death and the senseless killing of the others who died.
I join with you, I am sure, in horror and sorrow at hearing this news. We have many students from the Pacifica Synod who are current students or alumni of Cal Lutheran. Many of the Lutheran Retreats, Camps, and Conferences summer staff who work at El Camino Pines and Luther Glen are students of the University. I am thankful they are all safe, but the nearness of the shooting is scary for any of us who know and love people who study and work at Cal Lutheran.
I ask you to pray for all who are affected by this tragedy. Please keep in prayer the staff of California Lutheran University, as they not only deal with their own grief and shock, but also seek to help their students process what has happened in their community. Pray also for solutions. Pray for solutions to the plague of gun violence that has senselessly taken too many lives. People on both sides of the political aisle are outraged by the carnage, and it is time we came together for solutions that would work. Lutherans and Episcopalians in Southern California have formed a joint coalition against gun violence. I encourage you to check out their Facebook page, see if there are resources that can help your congregation. This shooting comes just a couple of weeks after the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The only way to stop these shootings to for all of us to come together and find a way to act to stop the violence.
Pray also that our society will find a better way to help our severely mentally ill. It sounds from news reports that the shooter struggled with severe mental illness. While as a parish pastor I never dealt with someone whose illness led to violence, I found that it was often difficult to help people who had more severe forms of mental illness, due to our laws and often to the patient’s unwillingness to allow others to help. I also felt for the shooter’s mother, who said she worried about what her son might do. Many parents worry about their children who struggle with this disease. Organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides help for families of the mentally ill, no matter how severely they are afflicted. If you have a family member who struggles with mental illness, I encourage you to contact NAMI to see what resources are available in your area.
I apologize for not responding with a word about this sooner. Spotty WiFi at the places where I’ve been staying have kept me from sending this message until now. But I ask you to join with me in the following prayer, as we seek God’s help in the face of this tragedy:
Most Gracious God,
We know that you love all that you have made, and cherish each of us deeply. We are heartbroken over the deaths of 12 more people due to gun violence, just as we continue to mourn the deaths of those who lost their lives at Tree of Life Synagogue, and at scenes of other mass shootings. We pray for the community of California Lutheran University. We ask you to be with President Chris Kimball, with Campus Pastors Scott Maxwell-Doherty and Hazel Salazar-Davidson, and with all who seek to help the staff and students as they reel from this tragedy. Guide the entire University as they grieve, deal with the shock, and seek healing.
We pray for an end to these senseless killings, and we ask you to help us to find a way, together, to stop this carnage. Help those of differing political views to listen to each other, to move beyond the rhetoric that binds us in helplessness, to find a solution that will work, and to make the world a safer place. Do not let us fall back into despair or complacency. Help us to act to end gun violence now.
Guide our nation also in our care for the mentally ill. Help us to find new paths toward treatment for those who suffer, that they may find healing. Especially guide us to find treatment for those whose mental illness might lead them to violence, so that they will not inflict violence on others. Be with the families of those who are mentally ill, and help them to find the help they need. Thank your for organizations like NAMI who provide aid to families and friends of the mentally ill.
Be with us, Lord. Guide us to find a better way, so that no one else may die due to a mass shooting in this nation.
In Jesus’ name we pray.