From Bishop Sean: A Hate Crime in Buffalo

Dear People of God:

Earlier today, our beautiful spring afternoon was shattered by news reports that a white man dressed in body armor and carrying a high-powered rifle has murdered ten people at the Tops Supermarket on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo. Three others are injured, according to reports—two of them critically.

The gunman is eighteen years old, and if a manifesto attributed to him online is authentic, he is a white supremacist who was radicalized online and came to the East Side of Buffalo expressly to kill Black people. The gunman’s identity is not yet confirmed, and many other questions remain, but Erie County Sheriff John Garcia has said that “this was straight-up racially motivated hate crime.” While we wait to learn more about this unthinkable situation, I ask you to join me in praying for those who have died, for those who are injured and suffering, and for the families and loved ones whose lives will never be the same. Please pray, too, for the man who committed this horrific act, and for everyone whose mind and soul is twisted toward the evil of gun violence by racism.

Racial hatred has no place in our churches or our communities. Here in the Dioceses of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York, we are committed to dismantling white supremacy and systemic racism, and we stand in solidarity with the Black community, which today has once again paid an unthinkable price for the twin evils of racism and gun violence. We stand, too, with our Jewish friends and neighbors who are also the targets of racist hate like that which this gunman is reported to have spewed online. I will be in touch with you in the coming days as I learn more about how Episcopalians might assist Buffalo’s East Side in its response to this horrific day.

Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a network of more than 100 Episcopal Church bishops in which I am a longtime participant, has compiled many resources for prayer in the wake of gun violence on its website. I encourage you to use them for personal prayer, especially at times like these, when words can fail us, and to draw on them for special prayers for the victims of this mass shooting in your Sunday services tomorrow.

Tomorrow at 3:30 p.m., I will lead a short service on Zoom and Facebook Live so that we can pray together for the souls of those who have died, ask God to comfort their loved ones, and give thanks for the lives of those who survived this massacre, and for the first responders who reported so quickly to the scene. I know that frequently, in the wake of a mass shooting, politicians take refuge in offering “thoughts and prayers.” But I ask you to pray not as a substitute for taking action, but to prepare to do so. In the coming weeks, we will need to gather our resolve and raise our voices again against racism and hatred, and commit ourselves to freeing our nation from this epidemic of gun violence.

You can join tomorrow’s 3:30 p.m. prayer service by emailing to receive the Zoom link or by watching on our Facebook page. A recording will be available afterward if you are unable to join the service live. [Editor’s note: Watch the prayer service, which took place on May 15, on YouTube.]

Especially on this sad and troubling night, when violence has shattered our community, may God grant us all the peace that passes understanding.