Yesterday, on June 9, there was a shooting at Columbia Machine Inc. in Smithsburg, near Hagerstown. Initial police reports indicate that three people were killed and one was wounded. The gunman and a police officer were also shot and injured after the gunman fled the scene.
United Methodists are grieving. Shiloh UMC in Hagerstown has members closely affected by the shooting. One of the victims is a member's son and another is related to many people in the congregation. We share their grief and pray that God will be an abiding and comforting presence for them in the days ahead.
As the people of God, our first response must always be prayer, for those injured or killed, the pain caused by those realities, and the violence we so deeply lament wreaking havoc in our midst again. We pray for comfort, healing, and peace.
And as we pray, we are also called to process what is occurring both immediately and over the longer term. Even as we pray for those directly involved, we are all affected – at risk from hatred, from the proliferation of weapons and the ease with which they are procured, from rhetoric that creates fear and pits human being against human being, and our collective stress in feeling perpetually vulnerable.
Echoes of the shootings at Uvalde, Buffalo, and others throughout the nation still ring in our ears. The tragedy that has touched the lives of the people in Smithsburg and the surrounding area today will reverberate into the community’s heart and identity for years to come. It seems we can barely catch our breath before the next tragedy occurs. And yet, I pray that we will never allow ourselves to become complacent, or to believe that our prayers and our actions can’t make a difference. Just as efforts to create greater safety in travel have reduced deaths by wearing seatbelts, common sense regulation in the acquisition and type of weapons available will reduce the loss of life in mass shootings.
Unfortunately, we can begin to predict the response to this tragedy. We know that leaders will call for thoughts and prayers. We know that advocates will be silenced with the false narrative that it is too soon to discuss restraint. What we also know is that soon the predictable tension between whether guns kill or people kill will emerge. And, gun lobbyists will line up to offer condolences for lives lost without offering proposals of any comprehensive gun reform to lessen the probability of this type of massacre ever happening again. What we know is we will spend our time analyzing the mental health of the shooter while excusing our nation’s inability to protect the most vulnerable.
And so, even as I cry out, “how long, O’ Lord,” I turn to the people of the Baltimore-Washington Conference and ask you not to harden your hearts, but to let your hearts keep breaking, as we put our faith in God and our hands to work, raising our voices in lament and working together to create shalom.
We will pray together, we will keep healing together, and we will commit ourselves and our resources to addressing the violence as breaking stories of active scenes continue to unfold in our communities and our nation. We turn to God, and to one another, and we connect in hope and action. Enough is enough.
Blessings and Peace,
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling
Baltimore-Washington and Peninsula-Delaware Conferences
The United Methodist Church