Vigil for a Teenager | by Phil Roeder

Christian Leaders Mourn School Violence, Call for Dialogue of Healing

O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?

Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?

Habakkuk 1:2, NRSV

Our hearts remain broken, and we grieve as one with the students, faculty, staff, and families of the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Hardly more than one week ago, Kendrick Castillo, a student at the school, died after laying down his life to save others. Eight others were also shot; two are still in the hospital; all are struggling to recover from their injuries. Such violence is shocking. Our schools, our places of worship, and other public spaces are now killing fields. We must never become so numb to such traumatic events that we shrug them off as commonplace.

The motive of the gunmen is still unknown. What we do know is that two students turned violently on their peers with impunity. Our children are killing one another and themselves. Too many are throwing themselves under the wheel of violence. And so we call out, “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?  Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?”

Our children cry “Violence!” and “Enough!” Will we hear them?

As we comfort our children and hold them tight, telling them we love them and will keep them safe, we also have the responsibility to engage and lead in dialogue and action about what truly keeps us safe.

While a discussion around sensible gun regulations, including safe firearm storage in the home, is vital, bullying must also be addressed in such school tragedies, particularly as an environment of abuse and social ostracism can lead to violent acting out — an inexcusable reaction, but very real in today’s world.

The fear and despair that now occupies our schools in the wake of such tragedies point to a deeper need for healing. We urge all people of goodwill to commit to a new level of dialogue that seeks healing as the outcome. Dialogue is the path that leads toward purposeful action and away from violence. Those who have lost their lives, in this school shooting and others, deserve nothing less from us. May God hear our prayer!

The Colorado Council of Churches,

Rev. Sue Artt, Conference Minister, Rocky Mountain Conference, United Church of Christ

Rev. Joan Bell-Haynes, Executive Regional Minister, Central Rocky Mountain Region, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Presiding Elder Anthony Hill, Kansas District, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

Rev. Dana Hughes, Transitional Presbytery Pastor, Denver Presbytery

Rev. Michael J. Nicosia, Vicar to the Rocky Mountain Region of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion

Rev. Vickie Samland, Western Plains District Representative, Church of the Brethren