ELCA Pastor Delivers Christian Message at Virginia Tech

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. William H. King, Lutheran campus pastor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, Va., and staff of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), delivered the Christian message April 17 at the Virginia Tech Convocation where students, faculty and others of the community gathered to remember the victims of yesterday's shooting on campus.

According to the Virginia Tech Web site, at least 33 people died including the gunman. "We're gathered this afternoon for many purposes. To weep for lost friends and families, to mourn our lost innocence, to walk forward in the wake of unspeakable tragedy, to embrace hope in the shadow of despair, to join our voices and our longing for peace, healing and understanding which is much greater than any single faith community, to embrace that which unifies, and to reject the seductive temptation to hate," said King, who also serves as deployed staff of the Department for Campus Ministry, ELCA Vocation and Education.

"We gather together weeping, yes, we weep with an agony too deep for words and sighs that are inexpressible, but also we gather affirming the sovereignty of life over death. At a time such as this the darkness of evil seems powerful indeed. It casts a pall over our simple joys, joys as simple as playing Frisbee on the Drill Field. We struggle to imagine a future beyond this agony. If we ever harbored any illusions that our campus is an idyllic refuge from the violence of the rest the world, they are gone forever. And yet we come to this place to testify that the light of love cannot be defeated. Amid all ourpain, we confess that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it," said King.

"We cannot undo yesterday's tragic events, but we can sit in patient silence with those who mourn as they seek for a way forward. As we share light one with another, we reclaim our campus. Let us deny death's power to rob us of all that we havel oved about Virginia Tech, our community. Let us cast our lot with hope in defiance of despair," said King, who invited the convocation to a moment of silence.

President George W. Bush addressed the convocation. "Laura and I have come to Blacksburg today with hearts full of sorrow. This is a day of mourning for the Virginia Tech community, and it is a day of sadness for our entire nation. In this time of anguish, I hope you know that people all over this country are thinking about you and asking God to provide comfort for all who have been affected," he said.

"People who have never met you are praying for you. They're praying for your friends who have fallen and who are injured. There's a power in these prayers, a real power. In times like this, we can find comfort in the grace and guidance of a loving God," said Bush, who ordered flags to be flown at half-staff through sunset on Sunday, April 22.

Worship will take place at Luther Memorial Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation located across the street from the university's campus, the evening of April 17. After the service worshippers will be invited to join the prayer vigil taking place on Virginia Tech's Drill Field, said the Rev. Gary R. Schroeder, pastor, Luther Memorial Lutheran Church. "Many people have lost friends, colleagues and neighbors," he said. "We're a close-knit community."

The Rev. James F. Mauney, bishop of the ELCA Virginia Synod, Salem, and Jan Tobias, Lutheran Disaster Response coordinator for Virginia, are expected to attend the service.

Letter to members of the ELCA Virginia Synod

In an April 16 letter to members of the ELCA Virginia Synod, Mauney said, "Our pastors and people in the Blacksburg area have been responding with a host of others all day long. It will be a day for them that they will not forget. I am grateful for the presence of our campus ministry at Virginia Tech and for our campus pastors, Bill King and (the Rev.) Joanna Stallings. I am grateful for the parish of Luther Memorial (and) Pastor Gary Schroeder, who work with the campus ministry at Virginia Tech.

"It is a long, troubling night as families wait to be contacted either by their children or by authorities. It is the time between seeing the great cloud of the explosion and knowing that there is yet a powerful shock wave that is coming. The shock wave will come as the names of victims are released," he said.

"We all wait to hear, parents and children. At this international university the names could be from anywhere, and they are all precious to our Lord, who knew violent death at the hands of others, and a heavenly Father who has known the death of an only Son," Mauney said.

"It is also a time of prayers for healing for those wounded or injured. There will be wounds of mind and heart and soul to be healed as well. It is a time for prayers of forgiveness," he said.

"For many, this night is a time of some quiet thankfulness as children have called home. "I am grateful to God for the vast array of gifted, talented law enforcement personnel, rescue workers, nurses, physicians, chaplains, pastors, teachers, and a host of others who have risked and served for everyone who was in need before them this day," said Mauney.

"Let us remember all the administration, staff, faculty, students, campus ministry, and families of Virginia Tech in our prayers this night. It is yet a time of coming lamentation."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy, it's too bad that Pr. King didn't mention God or His Holy Son Jesus, but yielded that high ground to Bush. Yes, he used a couple carefully crafted scriptural allusions. But where's the real hope in what he shared? Where's the explicit Gospel?

--- Lutheran pastor in Pennsylvania

5:42 PM  

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