In the span of a week in late July and early August, three different men killed 35 people and injured 64 more in three mass shootings. The events took place in Gilroy, California; El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. However, their effect has been felt nationwide as people grapple with how best to respond to these tragedies.
The Lowell First Congregational United Church of Christ is planning a prayer vigil on Tuesday, August 20, at 6pm to give people a place to process their emotions and pray for an end to violence. The vigil will be held at the church, located at 865 Lincoln Lake Ave. SE.
Event about Prayer, Not Politics
Jon Propper, senior pastor for First Congregational UCC, stresses the event won’t advocate for a particular response to gun violence. On the contrary, he says the vigil isn’t the time or place to unpack the complexities surrounding the issue. What’s more, he notes members of the church leadership themselves hold differing opinions regarding how best to address gun violence.
The UCC National Setting, which is the denomination’s parent organization, has encouraged local churches to respond to recent events in a way that will meet the emotional and spiritual needs of people in their community. “The church has always strived to be a place where people come together,” Propper remarks. At First Congregational UCC, a prayer vigil was determined to be the best way to give people a place and space to contemplate what they are feeling.
“We wanted to provide a space for folks to grieve the recent loss of life and process that grief in the support of a spiritual community,” Propper says. “Whether Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, all people can agree that violence in our country is a tragedy.”
One-Hour Event Will Feature Centering Prayer, Singing
The prayer vigil is expected to last one hour and will be marked by both periods of silence and singing. There will be opportunities for both private and communal prayer. Propper says he plans to walk participants through a centering prayer as part of the evening. “It’s a really simple meditating technique,” he explains.
All members of the community from all faith backgrounds are invited to attend. There is no cost. “We hope that all people will find a place for their grief, their hope, their fear, their optimism [and] their anguish as we all mourn the lives lost to political extremism and violence,” Propper says.
Additional information can be found in a Facebook event created for the evening.