Bishop issues pastoral letter on deadly mass shooting at Walmart in Southern Virginia

Posted Nov 23, 2022

[Episcopal News Service] A gunman opened fire at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, late Nov. 22, killing six and wounding four, before shooting and killing himself.

Chesapeake is just south of Norfolk, near the North Carolina state line. On Nov. 23, the Diocese of Southern Virginia released the following pastoral letter from Bishop Susan Haynes about the shooting, and a prayer vigil is scheduled for 5 p.m. Eastern at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Chesapeake.

Once again, our world has been plunged into darkness. Last night, as shoppers gathered supplies for upcoming Thanksgiving festivities in Chesapeake, Virginia, a person entered the store and shot six of his former fellow employees before turning the gun on himself and taking his own life. The aftermath of such violence is dark and full of anguish. Our pained cries and laments rise up. We need to see you, God! As the Psalmist cries, so do we: “Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O Lord.” (Psalm 4:6) We need to see you.

This Sunday marks the first Sunday of Advent, the Sunday when we light the first candle on our Advent wreaths. As we do so, let us light this candle as an act of defiance against the darkness which falls around us. The Prophet Jeremiah reminds us that weapons of war and violence will be transformed into implements of creativity and growth. The Apostle Paul exhorts us to lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light – the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Jesus tells us that He is coming again and will crash in unexpectedly on our darkness. As we light our Advent candle this Sunday, we are turning on the light in the world; that light is stronger than the dark and will overpower it.

Our Baptismal Promises also call us to action. We are called to prayer, we are called to resist evil, we are called to proclaim Jesus, we are called to seek justice and to respect all humanity. This call to action will look different for different people, and all authentic action born of prayer and devotion to God is needed. Say your prayers and get to work.

As you light your Advent candle against the darkness this Sunday, remember especially in your prayers the City of Chesapeake and the people there. Pray that God would empower the churches there (St. Bride’s and St. Thomas) to be the light and hope of Christ in the face of violence. Pray for the Norfolk and Suffolk convocations (The Very Rev. Stewart Tabb and the Very Rev. Dr. Keith Emerson, Deans) that they will be empowered to be beacons of hope in the face of chaos. Pray that God would empower us all to face this darkness with the light of Christ.

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.