Tragedy At A Church

ChurchToday I was going to decide which article to write to start off the Advent season.  An article that would prepare our hearts. Instead I am overwhelmed with questions.

As I prepare for His birth my heart is filled with a longing for the peace that only Jesus can give.    The peace of the Advent season has been replaced by the sorrow of tragedy.

Today as I went into work I was given the news about a shooting at one of our churches.  It is a small country church in the area I refer to God’s country, near the NY border.  I do not know most of the details, but from what I was told and read, it happened during the worship service.  A few minutes after church started a gunman entered the church, pushed the pastor aside and shot the organist, his ex-wife.  He left the building only to come back and shoot her again, as he said, to make sure the job was done.  The pastor and a few of the parishioners subdued him and held him until the State Police arrived.

Today the church is trying to find answers and make sense out of what happened.  Through our Presbytery, our Synod and PDA (Presbyterian Disaster Assistance), they will get the assistance they need to rebuild their lives and the church and the community is being sheltered in our prayers.  But the hurt and pain caused by this violent act has left a permanent scar on the family of the victim and the community.

In this season of joy and peace, I ask why?  On the first day of Advent this man took a life in a most horrible way.  I am asking, why didn’t God intervene?  The same questions I have asked over the years, when my brother was tragically taken from us at the age of 19, when my father and mother died at an early age, with my cancer diagnoses, and other events that brought such pain and suffering.  Why, Lord?

I am not a theologian, but I love my Lord.   I do not know why God allowed this to happen. I know He did not cause it, but for reasons we may not know until we stand before Him, He allowed this violent act to happen.  As much as we hate to admit it, evil is all around us, even during this season of peace,  evil rears its ugly head and threatens to destroy us.  Lives are destroyed and shattered. And through it all God cries with us.

I am reminded of the story that was circulated after the attacks on Sept 11.  It was sent over the internet and asked the question where was God when the planes crashed into the towers, the pentagon and a quiet field in PA.  I don’t remember much of that article, but basically as I remember,  it answered the question of where was God, by saying God was there, in the planes, in the towers, and in hallways of the pentagon. He calmed their fears as He led them home and comforted those that survived.  So I know in my heart that God was in that sanctuary and He calmed the fear of the organist as He reached out to her and took her home, He gave strength to the pastor and the congregation to  subdue the ex-husband till help arrived and He is there to comfort those who grieve. God is in each of us as we pray and minister to those who will mourn the loss of a mother, a sister, a friend and mourn the loss of their security.

Today my faith was questioned, as to why our God, our Lord would allow something like that happen.  He allowed it because He gave us all free will to choose Him or to choose evil.  But with that freedom he also gives His promise to never leave us.  God our Father in Heaven will always be with us, in times of joy, sorrow and tragedy.  He will bring healing and comfort to those who suffer.  So I may not completely understand why, but I choose to believe His promises and that offers me hope in this broken world.  And isn’t that the real meaning of the Christmas season, to give us hope in a little child, the baby Jesus.


54 thoughts on “Tragedy At A Church

  1. My heart is in sorrow regarding this news. Such horrible events, popping into our lives on a daily basis, people running amuck killing one another for the weakest of reasons, countries infected with rebellions one after another, even the universe is “hotter” than usual. Why, Lord? Is it the End Times?

    I pray with you, Patty, for God to guide our hearts and minds in His will and control. May we all muster the strength we find in Him and report for duty as He calls us. Shalom and blessings. 🙂


    1. It is important for us to turn our fears over to God. I like how Valarie reminds us the importance of changing our fear to Love and by that we will change the world. It starts with our desires to want to give our fears over to God, then God will give us the desires of our hearts – Love. Such a powerful word.


  2. I am deeply saddened by the news of another dreadful event… and of your deep thoughts and soul-felt feelings. While you know I am not of your faith, the sentiment expressed in your wonderful words ring true to every decent person reading them. And while you are apparently referring to the horrible 9/11 event of New York City, the parents of those murdered just this past Sept. 11 in Benghazi must also be asking themselves the same questions.


  3. Dear Patty,
    I am so sorry about this tragic event. That you can maintain your spirit after so much sorrow s a testament to your faith. But my thoughts are with you and everyone in your congregation.


    1. Thank you Naomi, thankfully it was not my church but one of the churches that I work with through my office. I have been through so much and God has been with me through it all. Sometimes I felt His presence and other times my pain was so bad I felt alone, but looking back at those times, I see that He was there. Like He is now with the church and the community.


  4. Patti, I don’t think the Divine Source Allowed it to happen, or that God’s will was done. I think that man was given free will, and God cannot interfere with that Plan. Until man replaces Love with Fear ( and that gunman was full of fear, despair etc etc) God’s plan for us will not eventuate, and Jesus’s words that He brings fullness of life will not come to pass either.
    The gunman showed us violence in its most immediate form, but wherever there is greed, extortion, lack of love, starvation, exploitation of animals, the ocean, children, people, there is also violence which is the opposite of love.
    The only way that we can make a change is not to judge – the gunman, the ruthless rich men who exploit people and the planet, or politicians who distort power… by not judging we can allow love to permeate ourselves, our lives, and the loves of others. By not judging – ourselves or others – we can start to feel our own love, and love others – we can be part of the Change, By loving and not judging what has happened, we can actually do something positive to change our world, and then Love Will Prevail.
    With love, Valerie


    1. Thank you so much for your comment. You have spoke to my soul, I don’t know what else to say. You have stated something very powerful. I asked why and God answered in a special way. Thank you for reminding us of the power of Love. You have already made a change in me. I must have read your comment 6 times, each time it meant more to me. Blessings! Patty


  5. As I read your posting all I could think of was “free will”. And as you stated we have the free will to accept or reject evil. We each make that choice. It does not always make it easy to accept or understand these tragedies. But we do have hope in Jesus Christ. Thank you for such a heart-felt posting. Many blessings. Bernice


  6. How terrible. Yes, incidents like these do show the depths of the Fall. But they also show the height of faith when someone, like you, Patty, and the people traumatized in that church, can still believe that our God is good, despite what we feel and see and hear. Hang in there. Jesus said “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33). It all sickens me, but I believe that Day will come when it is finished.


  7. Such a sad is so hard to make sense out of seemingly senseless acts.
    Thank you for reminding us that God is always there…even during the hard times…and that he doesn’t cause the events, but allows us our free will to make choices.


  8. Dear Patty, I am so sorry for you all who are affected by this senseless tragedy. I don’t have your faith but I so admire you who can find the love and the truth in such an event. I send you and all the congregation and all those in your community love to help each other through this. ❤


  9. It was a beautiful post…filled with sadness and questions …but I believe as you do that God is invisibly present and comforting when these things happen. I believe God understands when we ask…’WHY’…Diane


  10. Oh, this is terribly sad! I am sad for all those who witnessed it and who are left behind to deal with the disaster this man caused. That is a good question, “Why God?” He is soverign and I am not. I wrestle with this question as well.


  11. Praying for everyone affected by this tragedy. This world is not ours, and as devastating and unneccassary as this act of violence was, I’m confident that the victim is now playing beautiful music for the Lord. There’s no greater peace than that!

    You are in my heart today and always!!


  12. Wow. I had not heard of this in Canada. A church is a safe place, or at least it should be. We all know that. Something went terribly wrong here. I use to thing that there were more guns in the US. However, now in Canada we are also getting shootings.


    1. I think that is what makes it so much harder to understand. As I sat in church today I kept thinking about our sister church up north. Evil has entered the sanctuary of God. I am sorry to read that Canada has an increased in shootings too. When we think of Canada we think of a loving and peaceful people, which I am sure is still true, but it is the bad things that make the news.


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