This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Rev. Raymond Hylton
FPCE senior pastor.

Dear friends,

Flags at half staff July 7, 2022.

I moved to America in 1981 and in all my 41 years in this country I never missed the chance to celebrate America’s birthday — until this past Monday morning, when our neighbors in Highland Park experienced demonic violence, loss of life, and loss of “innocence.”

Out of a need to protect their citizens, several surrounding municipalities canceled their parades until the perpetrator was arrested and the crime situation was deemed to be secure. Also, clearly, as a sign of respect for the dead, wounded, suffering from that ill-fated holiday celebration. It was not a good time for the customary revelries.

We are yet to learn what ultimately inspired this young man to bring an automatic rifle to Highland Park and climb onto a rooftop, randomly and mercilessly kill seven people and injure at least 40 other precious souls, including four members of a single family. Assuredly, whatever motives may surface in the next few days, any “rationale” for his actions will be found grossly irrational and indefensible.

The laws of God, nature, and human decency provide no acceptable basis for his and others’ violence against other human beings.

Every mass shooting of civilians in our nation’s schools, supermarkets, churches, and other public spaces robs us of our presumptive innocence and undermines our confidence to show up and engage with our fellow human beings. How the Devil loves these fundamental breakdowns in communication and relations!

Like you, when these senseless tragedies occur, I feel so much anger and frustration — and, in my private prayers, I ask God, “What? When? Why!?”

Why do American citizens continue killing each other with such regularity and apparent impunity? Are you aware that over 40,000 people lose their lives each year to gun violence?

When will this madness and violence come to an end? I have the audacity to believe that this violence is not determinate, or unalterable. Darkness will not defeat light, evil never wins over righteousness.

What is the role of God’s Church in a culture that has lost its moral center? Contrary to those who believe the church provides no social capital in our secular culture, studies show that congregations leverage much power in mitigating many social ills like homelessness, mental health, mentoring, teen suicide, medical care, abuse and hopelessness in our community.

These are hugely, deeply systemic questions requiring multi-disciplinary approaches to change the seemingly hell-bent trajectory of this problem.

I encourage you, in the corner where you live, never to capitulate to the undertow of despair that tries to drown hope. It’s tempting to shut down emotionally in light of all of this violence. It’s tempting to give in to despair. “So goes the world,” we might say, “That’s just the way it is,” wishing it were otherwise but feeling powerless to make a difference.

People: Reject apathy and isolation! Pray for our local communities and our leaders.

Support legislation that limits access to guns. Sadly, some of our politicians have consistently demonstrated a failure of nerve to enact tougher gun laws creating meaningful, substantive barriers to civilians owning high capacity military-grade assault weapons.

Encourage healthy family life. We cannot wait on our local police and politicians to carry the weight of change. Our mothers, fathers, grandparents, and mentors are vital to changing conditions on the ground. Not in all cases, but in many of these mass shootings, the shooter’s family of origin was hurting and divided by many life challenges and so were unable to help recognize and rescue the shooter. Studies show that families engaged in a local church often become healthier and stronger.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus was very clear: Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God. Followers of Jesus should never seek conflict or be responsible for it. On the contrary, we are called to Peace; Scripture tells us we are actively to “pursue” peace, we are to “strive for peace with everyone,” and, so far as it depends on us, we are to “live peaceably with all.”

For the good of your soul, the health of your family and our community, please make an effort and join us in worship this Sunday.

Thanks once again to our Deacons for hosting this Sunday’s Annual Hot Dog Social.

See you Sunday,
Pastor Ray 

Photo by Jim Teague

© 2023 First Presbyterian Church of Evanston

Church Theme by VamTam Themes

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