Five years ago this Thursday, December 14th, 2012, your bishops were called to a pastoral ministry none of us could have ever imagined. When we learned of the horror that was unfolding at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, we, along with then-Bishop Suffragan Jim Curry, immediately rushed to Trinity Church in Newtown to be with those who were scared, confused, grief-stricken, and bewildered. All we could offer in the hours, days, weeks, and months that followed the tragedy were our prayers and our presence. In the face of such death and destruction, we did our best to witness to the truth and power of the Resurrection of Jesus – God incarnate who joins us in our suffering and loss and who has triumphed over death.
This Thursday, December 14, 2017, we pause to remember and recall. We hold in our hearts and in our prayers, the twenty innocent young children and six adult care givers whose lives were taken at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We extend our circle of love and care to the families, friends, and neighbors who lost loved ones five years ago. And we invite all in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut to pause and be silent for a moment on Thursday, December 14, 2017, to pray for the repose of the souls of all who died in Newtown and all who mourn their loss.
Grant, O Lord, to all who are bereaved the spirit of faith and courage, that they may have strength to meet the days to come with steadfastness and patience; not sorrowing as those without hope, but in thankful remembrance of your great goodness, and in the joyful expectation of eternal life with those they love. And this we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, page 505)
Even as we pause to pray and remember, we recognize that the tragedy of Sandy Hook has not been limited to our experience here in Connecticut. According to the Gun Violence Archive, since Sandy Hook our country has experienced 1,518 acts of gun violence in which four or more people have been shot. Over the last five years, 1,715 people have been killed and over 6,000 have been injured in mass shootings in the United States. The litany of places experiencing such tragedies seems to go on and on without end: The Washington Navy Yard, Charleston, San Bernardino, Orlando, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs.
Sadly this litany of gun violence is not limited to mass shootings. The United States is the most heavily armed nation in the world with over 101 guns for every resident of our country. On average, 93 people a day are killed in the United States by gun violence. And over 30,00 Americans die each year from firearms, 12,000 of whom are homicides and 60% dying at their own hands. This madness has got to stop.
As your bishops we are committed to addressing and responding to this epidemic of gun violence in our country. We are founding members of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, (http://bishopsagainstgunviolence.org) a network of over 70 Episcopal bishops who have covenanted together to challenge the culture of gun violence in our country through education, advocacy, and public witness. We will not be silent and passive in the face of ongoing gun violence. We owe such to those we lost at Sandy Hook.
We invite you to be involved in similar networks, and community and faith based organizations, that are working to overcome gun violence in our country. Together, by the grace of God, we can turn back the death-dealing realities of gun violence in the United States. On the fifth anniversary of the events at Sandy Hook, let us recommit to making our nation free from ongoing gun violence tragedies.