WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In response to the horrific shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, resident bishop of the Western Pennsylvania Conference, has released the following statement:
"The United Methodist Church of Western Pennsylvania groans for the family of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill. We groan because we do not have words to adequately express our grief, anger, and anguish because someone opened fire during a baby naming ceremony and where people had gathered to worship God. We groan because we do not know exactly what to pray on behalf of the members of our community with whom we share Abraham and Sarah as our father and mother in faith. However, we groan with the confidence that in our weakness, the Holy Spirit will intercede with wordless groans on our behalf. It is our prayer that somehow the families impacted by this unspeakable tragedy will feel the presence of God in the midst of their grief. It is our prayer that somehow the families impacted will feel the prayers and love of the United Methodist Church.
I urge all United Methodists to be in silent, reflective prayer for 17 minutes each day for the next 7 days for the Squirrel Hill and Jewish communities. As you pray, I urge you not to suggest to God what you want God to do to bring about change. But rather, I urge you to listen to God so that God can reveal to you what to say and what to do in order to provide comfort to our Jewish sisters and brothers, the first responders, and all those for whom this tragedy reignites previous trauma. Today, and for the next few days we need to focus on how we can demonstrate that we stand with the Jewish community, whether or not there is a synagogue in our town or community.
Later, our prayers should turn to what God is calling us to do to help ensure that persons of all faith traditions feel sanctuary in their places of worship. Later, our prayers should turn to what God is calling us to do to help stop hatred of all kinds. Later, our prayers should turn to what God is calling us to do to stop weapons of mass destruction being used to murder innocent people. But for today, and for the next few days, let us focus on the immediate needs of those impacted by the gunman who chose to drive to the Tree of Life Synagogue and open fire.
I am grateful to District Superintendent, Dawn Hand, and the pastors and lay leadership of the Pittsburgh District who immediately reached out to the rabbis and synagogues in the Pittsburgh area in order to determine how they might be supportive. I am grateful that we are part of Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania and that as an ecumenical community we are reaching out to our interfaith brothers and sisters in order to determine how we might be supportive of the Jewish community.
It is important that we allow the Jewish community to tell us how we might support them, rather than for us to suppose we know what might be helpful. As soon as we get greater direction, we will let you know if there are specific ways in which we can be supportive of the community. But for now, give blood if you are able, and let us all listen to God in prayer."
Media Contact: Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga
Director of Communications – Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church