“... And let it begin with me.”
The bells of St. Andrew Church in Tipton rang out as Christians of many stripes concluded the closing hymn.
About 70 people gathered the evening of Sept. 3 for an interfaith prayer service organized by the Tipton Ministerial Alliance for an end to violence.
A local response to national headlines of senseless shootings, it was a time to pray for victims of violence, their families, survivors, and first-responders.
Those who gathered prayed for guidance and implored God to bring peace and healing to a wounded country and world.
“Together, as people of faith, we need to take a step back and look at the shape that our country is in,” said Father Anthony Rinaldo, pastor of St. Andrew parish and of Annunciation parish in Tipton. “We love this country, and we are all horrified by this senseless violence.”
He said the service was not about the instruments of violence or about being “pro-” or “anti-” anything, “but the fact that we are becoming comfortable with it, that we are easing into a place where each of these is just another incident.”
He asked everyone to unite their hearts in prayer “to ask God what we should do and how we should go about it.”
Rest for the weary
Leaders and members of other Christian congregations followed Fr. Rinaldo to the pulpit.
“We call on You, gracious and holy God, in this hour to gather us in Your love,” Pastor Susan McCollegan of Fortuna United Methodist Church prayed the Invocation.
“We ask that You would make each of us an instrument of Your grace and peace,” she continued. “Weave us into a community that lives into Your power and tenderness.
“Bless each of us and our differences and strengthen our courage to stand together as a community who sees every person as Your beloved child, who’s worthy of love and respect,” she prayed.
Karen Wilson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sang an old hymn: “Oh, how praying rests the weary! Prayer will change the night to day. So, when life gets dark and dreary, don’t forget to pray.”
Roy Steele from Cornerstone Christian Church gave thanks to be living in a country where people are free to call upon God for help and inspiration.
He proclaimed two related Scripture passages:
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11)
“Good and wise words,” said Mr. Steele. “But where did John get these? From our Lord and Savior Himself.”
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this, all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35-35)
“He’ll speak to our hearts”
Kevin Wilson, branch president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave the sermon.
He said his heart leapt up inside of him when he heard Fr. Rinaldo’s and Pastor McCollegan’s idea to hold an interfaith service.
“The sooner the better!” he said.
He believes there are many tangible things people can do to address the growing violence and alienation in this country.
He said it’s important to be kind to people — showing common courtesy, smiling, looking people in the eye, offering encouraging words and just listening.
“And if someone divulges that they’re struggling, ask them what you can do,” he suggested.
He said it’s important to put God’s love into practice among family members, friends, acquaintances and strangers.
“If we truly love one another, we won’t violate the other commandments,” he said.
He spoke of respecting other people and their beliefs and learning to disagree without being disagreeable.
He suggested seeking out opportunities to perform random acts of kindness and service.
“If we prepare our hearts, we’ll know what the Lord wants us to do,” he said. “He’ll speak to our hearts what this random act of kindness needs to be.”
He encouraged parents to set an example for their children about how to be resilient and loving and “to stay on the narrow path of righteousness.”
Finally, he urged everyone to turn to God in prayer as the first resort, not the last.
“The glorious day will come when we’ll be free of all of these trials and all of these tragedies, these cares and these burdens of the world, when we’re at rest in His holy place,” he said.
“Encounter and unity”
Pastor Andrew Hake of Tipton United Methodist Church led the praying of the “Our Father.”
Fr. Rinaldo led the assembly in a “Prayer for Peace in Our Communities,” from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“Fill us with Your mercy so that we, in turn, may be merciful to others,” he prayed. “Strip away pride, suspicion and racism so that we may seek peace and justice in our communities.
“Strengthen our hearts so that they beat only to the rhythm of Your holy will,” he prayed. “Flood our path with Your light as we walk humbly toward a future filled with encounter and unity.”
Mike Kelley of Tipton United Methodist Church gave the benediction.
“Lord,” he prayed, “we need to have Your love deep in our hearts, so that we may spread that to others in such a way that it becomes such a groundswell that there is no more need for services like this.”
People lingered in fellowship long after singing the closing hymn, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”