Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
We write with an update on the tragedy in Newtown/Sandy Hook and with a few pastoral recommendations.
Your bishops were blessed to spend the majority of yesterday at Trinity Church in Newtown. The deep faith of the people of Trinity is inspiring and life-giving. The Rev. Kathie Adams-Shepherd, the rector of Trinity Church, is pastoring her flock with love, grace, and strength. Trinity Church has been affected directly by the shooting tragedy with one current and one former family losing children. Kathie asks that we pray specifically for the Wheeler family who are members of Trinity Church. Please pray for young Ben Wheeler who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School and for his family, father David, mother Francine, and brother. Kathie is providing immediate pastoral care to the Wheelers, and for the parish she has coordinated crisis counselors who specialize in trauma and pediatric psychological care.
We have also been in regular communication with the Rev. Mark Moore who pastors St. John's Church in Sandy Hook. While St. John's stands immediately adjacent to the Sandy Hook school, Mark reports that no members of his parish have lost loved ones in the tragedy. Please do keep the people of Trinity Church and St. John's Church, and their clergy and lay leaders, in your thoughts and prayers for healing and strength.
The Diocese of Connecticut has been blessed by sisters and brothers in Christ across The Episcopal Church and from around the Anglican Communion who are holding us all in their hearts and prayers. We have heard from colleagues in almost every province of The Episcopal Church and from around the Anglican Communion. We are being remembered in prayer and in specific worship services in churches as far away as: Australia, Canada, Congo, Dubai, England, Guyana, Myanmar, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, and others. Never before have we felt the importance and efficacy of our common bonds in the Anglican Communion than we do now in this time of need and in the prayers received.
The Rt. Rev. Robert Gillies, Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney in the Scottish Episcopal Church has written a special collect for the Diocese of Connecticut in this time of our grief and loss. The Diocese of Connecticut and the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney are blessed by a companion relationship begun when Bishop Seabury was ordained bishop in Aberdeen in 1784. Bishop Bob's collect follows. We commend it for your use in services tomorrow on the Third Sunday of Advent:
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Sustaining and redeeming God,
In sadness and in the tragedy of awful loss, we offer before you those young lives lost as a consequence of human violence this past week.
We raise in the distress of this time the families of whose children are no longer to share life and joy with them.
We mourn those other families also fractured by the needless killings of that day.
As Jesus first came to his people and lives of the young and innocent were lost in the cruelty of one individual upon others, so now 2000 years on we stand alongside those whose similar grief is beyond our imagining.
Holy and loving God bring all consolation that can be brought to those most in need of your presence today, and never cease to make your presence real in this their hour of need.
To you we voice this prayer, Amen.
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Today, your three Bishops are blessed to ordain three new priests for our diocese. We will begin each service with a time of silence and then read the collects on page 494 in the Burial Service in the Book of Common Prayer. We commend these prayers to you and your parishes as you pray with intention for the people of Newtown and Sandy Hook.
In addition, we have become aware of a "Eucharistic Prayer at a time of Senseless Tragedy" written by the Rev. John Dornheim; who has given us permission to pass the prayer on to you for your parish's use. Please feel free to use this Eucharistic Prayer in your worship tomorrow if you find it pastorally appropriate. Link here to textweek.com, where it is posted. You may also find it now linked on the diocesan website as a PDF and in MS Word on this page (.docx).
Another good pastoral resource is: "Talking with Children About Tragedy" found at LeaderResources. This is a free download if you give credit to LeaderResources. We appreciate all those who have been making suggestions and identifying resources. The Rev. Dr. Molly James has been collecting and posting them on a new diocesan website page of disaster response resources.
We thank you for all the care and love you have already shown to those in your pastoral charge, and for your prayers for the people and churches in Newtown and Sandy Hook. Thank you for opening your churches for prayer and worship last night. We have already heard how meaningful that was for many. You all are a blessing in this difficult time.
May God continue to watch over us and bless all of us who are so deeply affected by this tragedy. And may the new life in the babe Jesus we look to and prepare for this Advent season give us new hope and new possibility in a world so much in need of Good News.
Ian, Laura and Jim
The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas
The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens
The Rt. Rev. James E. Curry