During a July 5 prayer vigil, Rev. Cal Haines, of Grace UMC in Lake Bluff, the Rev. Patricia Bonilla, and Rev. Esther Lee of Christ UMC in Deerfield hold candles and remember the shooting victims and those injured at the Highland Park July 4th parade. (Northern Illinois Conference Photo)
United Methodists across the United States and in Europe sweltered under excessive heat this week while they attempted to bring light to the heat of recent events.
Independence Day celebrations were marred July 4 when a gunman opened fire on a holiday parade in Highland Park, Ill., an affluent northern suburb of Chicago. Eight people were killed, including both parents of a 2-year-old boy found wandering bloody and alone in the aftermath. Another 29 people were treated for gunshot wounds, including an 8-year-old boy whose spine was severed by a shot to the chest. Northern Illinois Conference communications director Anne Marie Gerhardt describes the aftermath as Highland Park's faith communities rallied
to comfort the stricken community.
Altogether, the weekend of July 2-4 saw 17 mass shootings, with a total of 18 people killed and 99 people injured, according to Gun Violence Archive.
The Rev. Rebekah Simon-Peter argues that churches can do more to stem the tide of gun violence
in the United States. In the aftermath of the Highland Park shooting, Chicago Area Interim Bishop John L. Hopkins urged United Methodists to several individual and congregational actions to reduce gun violence
, including posting signs prohibiting guns in churches, joining ecumenical and interfaith prayer vigils on gun violence, and advocating for common-sense gun laws. Above right, A memorial of flowers and candles for the victims and all those injured grows on the sidewalk near the blocked-off area of the shooting. (Northern Illinois Conference Photo)
Several commentators took stock of the circumstances surrounding last week's decisions by the U.S. Supreme court that overturned the right to abortion; sided with a fired coach on public prayer in school; and stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to regulate carbon emissions that cause the climate crisis. Robert P. Jones (at left), founder and CEO of Public Religion Research Institute, warned that SCOTUS' conservative majority is employing a faulty reasoning
on "history and traditions" that is framed by Christian nationalism. The Rev. Paul R. Graves assessed Christian nationalism
from a pastor's viewpoint. Susan M. Shaw also cautioned that the court could revisit many recent decisions such as the ruling that granted marriage equality
to gay and lesbian couples. Stan Hastey of Baptist News Global asserted SCOTUS is being manipulated by "an aggressive and radicalized supermajority of justices" whose decisions are tearing down the separation
wall between church and state.
A Utah Food Bank volunteer loads groceries for a woman at a food bank distribution Friday, May 13, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Inflation is hitting food distribution ministries hard as pandemic-spawned federal supports fall away. For example, St. Andrew's UMC in Plano, Texas, now serves between 800 and 1,200 families
a week, roughly four times the volume of 2019, according to a Religion News Service story. Ryan McQueeney, an analyst in Sustainable Investment Stewardship for Wespath Benefits and Investments, describes why it's important for investors
to care about food, agriculture and biodiversity.
Russia's war on Ukraine also is causing spikes in food insecurity and hunger worldwide. Insight
Editor Cynthia B. Astle reports the plea of Ukrainian environmental lawyer Svitlana Romanko, who urges divesting from Russia's fossil fuels
in order to deprive Vladimir Putin of funds to continue his war against Ukraine.
In another Crisis Watch column, Editor Astle reports that Methodist Federation for Social Action urges United Methodists to join in the #HotFarmWorkerSummer
campaign sponsored by United Farm Workers Foundation. The goal is to assure that farmworkers get the protections they need to avoid heat-related illnesses while picking crops in this summer's excessive heat. Meanwhile, immigrants bused to Washington, D.C.'s Union Station as a political stunt by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are receiving immediate help
in resettling from Capitol Hill UMC and a coalition of faith-based groups, writes Melissa Lauber of the Baltimore-Washington Conference. At right, Volunteers at Capitol Hill UMC in the Baltimore-Washington Conference help arriving migrants process their immigration forms. (BWC Photo)
In UMC-related news and views, Emily McFarlan Miller of Religion News Service updates the status
of the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace through Separation as more congregations disaffiliate. The Liberation Methodist Connexion plans another "Stone Soup for the Soul"
online spiritual gathering. The Rev. Ben Gosden counsels showing love to one another
, even as negative emotions run high in the United Methodist separation. United Women in Faith (formerly United Methodist Women) urged support for two federal bills
aimed at racial justice in schools and providing a just transition to sustainable energy.
The Connectional Table's annual "State of the Church"
report focuses on how the UMC "has sought to better define its missional and theological identity" over the past year, says Bishop Christian Alsted, the agency's chair. According to its announcement, "the report is built around the #BeUMC campaign
, which celebrates how the church sees itself as United Methodists."
This week's watchword is "the hard work of hope," a phrase originated by biblical scholar Walter Bruggeman and transmitted to us by Dr. Steve Harper. He writes
: "The hard work of hope is done through resolve, energy, courage, and imagination. Each of the words brings the light of God to bear upon the challenges we face." Here's hoping you have a respite from the heat in order to experience God's light in the coming week.