I returned home from an afternoon of church conferences in wonderful churches in small communities. I turned on the TV and heard the news of yet another mass shooting. This one at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. How easily it could have been a United Methodist in rural northwestern Wisconsin! My heart breaks for the families and members of this church and the Sutherland Springs community. Some days it seems as though violence is all around us. This mass shooting comes on the heels of other acts of violence in our great nation and even in our district. Last week, for example, there was a double homicide and suicide in Chetek.

Now more than ever, people need to hear the Gospel. Now more than ever, we need to love our neighbors. Now more than ever, we need to tell the people we love how precious they are to us…how precious life is … I have no adequate words for the news of this day. If there is anything we can do, it is to spend time in prayer, listening to the still, small voice of our Maker as he steadies our souls and bids us to bear Christ’s light and love no matter how deep the darkness. I hope we can heed God’s calls to action. Please know that I am very grateful for your leadership, and I am praying for you as your comfort those you are called to serve in these troubling times.

A hymn that always comforts me is my prayer this evening (UMH #700):

1. Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

2. Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me.

3. I need thy presence every passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

4. I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.

5. Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

(Words: Henry F. Lyte (1847) & Music WH Monk (1861))

May you feel God’s presence as you support your congregations in the coming days.

By Kate Croskery Jones, North West District Superintendent