Dear Christ & St. Luke’s,
Over the past few days, as we have watched the news of the horrific terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas militants on the state of Israel and witnessed the beginnings of Israel’s strong defensive response, I have been surprised at just how close all this violence has felt even though it is happening 6,000 miles away.
Of course, there are the close political ties that bind our country and Israel as allies, but there is also a deep spiritual connection to that holy land that we share as members of the Abrahamic family of faiths. Many of us have visited there as pilgrims or guests. And even if we haven’t, we spend a lot of time imagining and talking about these places that have now been riven again with bloodshed and violence. As a result, they occupy a deep place in our hearts, and make the pain of the past week feel particularly acute.
There are also the personal connections many of us have to that place and its people. We have colleagues, neighbors, friends, family with strong ties to Israel and Palestine who are currently living through hell. And with the deployment of the USS Gerald R. Ford to try and prevent this war from spiraling outwards, Norfolk now has a physical presence in the conflict.
All of this makes it feel especially close.
I also feel sick that so many innocent civilians and non-combatants have been slaughtered, injured, or taken hostage. And I find myself feeling deeply sad that the past few days have set back the hope for peace and stability in that region dramatically. And I also feel scared. Scared that this conflict could turn into something even bigger and more tragic than it already is.
These fears, anxieties, and sorrows have been mounting during the week, such that they are starting to feel like too much to bear. And it is at times like this that I find myself driven to my knees in prayer. I pray that from this death and destruction there will emerge the possibility of a true and lasting peace even though it seems impossible right now. I pray for those who have been killed and lost loved ones; for those who are injured and are in need of healing; and for those who have been taken hostage, that in their grief or terror or pain the Heavenly Presence of the Almighty may draw especially close to them.
If you would also like to pray and are looking for a place to do so, we will open our Chapel from 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. tomorrow, October 12. Feel free to come and sit and offer to God whatever it is you may be feeling as you take in the news of this week.
I also want you to know that I have been in touch with Rabbi Michael Panitz, longtime friend of Christ & St. Luke’s, to extend our support and prayers for him and his congregation at Temple Israel who are reeling right now. He expressed a sincere gratitude to have such kind and caring neighbors in faith. And he has offered that anyone who would like is welcome to join them for their regular sabbath worship this Saturday from 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. and to join them for the fellowship lunch that follows.
I have also invited Rabbi Panitz to come and address our congregation and help us continue to process our feelings and questions around these events. That will take place on Sunday, October 29 after the 10:15 a.m. service in the Church.
Finally, I share with you this statement from the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem so that you might know the response from those who are living through this turmoil first-hand and who are committed to walking in the way of Christ.
My friends, there is so much pain and anger and violence in the world right now. Let us ground ourselves in the God who is love, and hope and pray that love will find a way to heal our hearts and save our world.
In Peace and Prayer,