Pastoral Letter from Rev. Schurr

My friends, it was a tough week.  First, the shooting at the Clackamas Town Center left us in shock.  It was a terrible act of violence in my own back yard. While we were still reeling from that trauma we heard about the unimaginable tragedy in Connecticut, with the shooting of 20 little children and their teachers.  A community that had not seen a murder in 10 years was faced with the mass shooting of innocents. Our hearts go out to all of those who lost a loved one in these senseless killings.

We can react in so many different ways.  We can feel numb.  We can feel afraid.  We can feel profoundly sad.  We wonder how something like this could happen.  What could have been done to stop it?  Will something like this happen again? Often, our feelings change as we process the events over the days and weeks that follow.

I urge you to take care of yourself in this tough time.  Get the information you need, but do not bombard yourself watching more news coverage than is helpful.   Do your best to get some exercise and moderate your use of things like alcohol and tobacco.   This will help your brain to be as resilient as it can be in the face of trauma.  Talk with friends about how you feel.  Sometimes talking about your anger, your fear, and your pain can really help you make sense of things for yourself.  If you have trouble coping over time, please seek the help of a counselor.  There is not shame in needing a little extra help at times like this.

Tragedy can motivate some people to find a solution to the world’s ills.  Troubled young men wearing body armor and carrying assault rifles perpetrated the two recent shootings, as well as the shooting in the Colorado movie theater a few months ago.  This is a good time for our nation to look at how we can help bolster our mental health system and restrict access to this kind of weaponry.  Clearly, guns like these in our communities are not keeping us safer.

Lastly, big questions often come to mind a time like this.  They are questions we call on our faith to help us answer.   How can people shoot each other if we all have inherent worth and dignity?  How can I feel whole and loved in a world so full of hate and violence?  Because Unitarian Universalism does not have a simple system of good and evil, that doesn’t mean all moral questions are relative.  This kind of killing is wrong.   People who lost a friend or family member this week feel unimaginable pain and will likely experience some serious anger.  Vengeance will not help them heal.  Only love and time can help them heal. We may be powerless to prevent all bad things from happening in this world, but we are not powerless in our ability to love those who are hurting.  I want to call here on the words of my colleague in UU ministry, the Rev. Dr. Emily Brault.  Emily works as a prison chaplain, so is far from naive about the bad things that happen in the world.  But she offers these words for us, “The reason it is called a tragedy is because it is so drastically outside the norm.  The norm is love and compassion and care for each other.  Shootings like these are an aberration, a horrible disconnect from reality. Reality is love for one another.  Never forget that”.  As your minister I am here to help you wrestle with the big questions that these kinds of things can bring up.  Feel free to contact me if I can be of any help.

I hold you all in my thoughts and prayers,

Rev. Sarah Schurr