Potomac Ministry Network
Response to this weekend's tragedy in Charlottesville
I am writing to you with a heavy heart. The recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia strike close to home for me as my son and daughter-in-law pastor a church there. I attend this church as often as I can, and I have come to know and love many residents of the area. I am heartbroken for the city and for the impact these events have had on the nation as a whole.

As a leader of the Potomac Ministry Network, I want to clearly state that we as a body of believers, striving to follow the heart of God, stand against actions that promote division and spread hatred and racism. We pray against the spirit behind such actions. The scriptures are clear, and they do not leave room for hate:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  
(Matthew 22:37-40 NIV)

“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.” The lyrics of the song we learned as children came to Johnese as she grieved in prayer over the recent event.  “Red and yellow, black and white, they are all precious in His sight.” Let us strive to share His love in stark contrast to those who would try to harm, intimidate, or discriminate against others.

Please join us in praying for Pastor Pete and Fran Hartwig and the congregation of City Church, Pastor Pete and Amy Bullette and the students of Chi Alpha at UVA, and Pastors Jon and Rebecca Burtram and the congregation of Redemption Church Charlottesville. Long after the media has lost interest, these ministries will be working to restore people’s trust in God and one another. We pray that God will grant them wisdom, direction, and the ability to bring healing to a hurting city.  

We serve a God that is able to bring calm to the raging seas, and we know that he is able to bring unity and peace to Charlottesville and the nation as a whole.

Sincerely in Christ,
From our leaders in Charlottesville.
The following are written responses from our Potomac ministers who lead ministries in Charlottesville.
Pete Bullette, Chi Alpha Director, University of Virginia

text of message sent out to the UVA Chi Alpha family:

Dear Chi Alpha family,  

I am so saddened by the terrible events of this weekend in Charlottesville.  I was deeply saddened, disturbed and physically sick to my stomach as I read reports and saw images of what happened in our city and what happened on Grounds on Friday night.  In moments like these we are told in Scripture "to mourn with those who mourn."    

I received a text from an alum of Chi Alpha who also used to serve on our staff expressing her sadness and grief over the events of the weekend.  She said while she was in prayer that she was reminded of Matthew 5:14 that says "You are the light of the world, a town built on a hill cannot be hidden."  

I want to remind us all that this is who we are as the people of God and specifically who we in Chi Alpha are to be to our University.  We are to be a city on a hill, in the midst of the darkness.  As people try to build a dividing wall of hostility in our community, we as the people of God serve a Savior who came to destroy the dividing wall of hostility.  (Eph 2:14).  This means, we respond in a few ways:  

  • We respond by praying for our city.  We pray for God to destroy what is trying to be erected for the purpose of division.    
  • We also respond by working hard to shine the light of Christ in the midst of the darkness. We do this through modeling and living out lives of love, compassion, empathy, and unity on Grounds, in our city, and specifically in our Chi Alpha community.  It is in the midst of darkness that the light of Jesus shines the brightest.    

...So, while a dark and divisive cloud hangs over our University and city from this weekend, as we return to Grounds for a new school year let us be even more inspired to be an extremely hospitable and loving community to all of our fellow students on Grounds and citizens in our city.  And as we do this, may we shine the light of Jesus in the midst of the darkness, who has destroyed the dividing wall of hostility!  

With a heavy but hopeful heart, Pete

NOTE:  UVA Chi Alpha plans a prayer walk on campus, re-tracing the steps the white supremacists tried to claim, trusting Jesus to destroy the dividing wall of hostility.

Jon Burtram, pastor of Redemption Church Charlottesville

The events we witnessed this past weekend in our city both saddened us and emboldened our resolve.  The racism, hatred, and violence is not characteristic of who we are in Charlottesville.  We are determined to come together as a community and as the body of Christ.  We are determined to stand up against racism and hatred and declare that it has no place in our churches and no place in our community.  We know that all racism, hatred, and violence finds its source in sin.  Yet we also know that all sin is defeated by the cross of Jesus Christ.  Now, more than ever, we need to be the church that God is calling us to be.

Pete Hartwig, pastor of CityChurch Charlottesville

I have been blessed to serve as a pastor in Charlottesville for the past 20 years.  With what happened in my city this past weekend still hanging over us like a thick marine layer cloud... here are 7 simple thoughts.

1.  Longevity matters.  Being embedded in a community for years and years earns the right to speak to larger issues. 

2. Longevity with a focus only on your own church does not count for all that much when a crisis hits a community. 

3.  Be prepared years in advance. When we (several of my fellow ministers in Charlottesville) saw what has been happening in our culture we knew that it was not IF but WHEN we would have an issue in our city. Charlottesville is an elite southern university town and cities like ours tend to attract situations like this.  Those of us who pastor the larger churches have been meeting and have taken the time to get to know and love each other.  When the two racially charged incidents happened in our city this summer… we all knew who we could call and trust. 

4.  Black churches need to inform white churches.  My closest pastoral friend/colleague in Charlottesville is pastor Dr. Alvin Edwards at Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church. The church he leads is the largest black church in Charlottesville.  When these race riots were scheduled to hit our city I asked Alvin what role CItyChurch should play.  He explained what he wanted and that is what we did. Our congregations know each of us due to years of our personal friendship and pulpit sharing. 

5.  If you are a “competitive pastor” racial reconciliation and community wide ministry will not work.  This is not a time to “shine”; it is a time to relationally serve. People in the racial struggle can smell personal agendas a mile away. 

6. Learn how to be ecumenical and remain faithful to Jesus.  If you can only work with Jesus-following-evangelicals, your effect will be very limited.  

7. Last but not least… PRAY.  Dr. Bob Rhoden called to encourage me very early this past Sunday morning and shared the following biblical truth: “In the Book of Acts chapter 4 the church’s initial response to injustice was to gather for prayer.”  He is right.

I hope these thoughts are helpful and I look forward to learning from all of you!

Peace, Pete Hartwig