Episcopalians pray for victims of Arizona massacre

January 9, 2011

Episcopalians have joined much of the rest of the United States in prayer and remembrance following the Jan. 8 killing of six people and wounding of 14 others outside a Tucson, Arizona-area grocery store where U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was holding a "Congress on Your Corner" gathering.

Among those killed was student council president Christina Taylor Green, 9 (who was born on Sept. 11, 2001); Arizona chief federal Judge John M. Roll, 63; Giffords' aide Gabriel Zimmerman, 30; Church of Christ pastor Dorwin Stoddard, 76 and retirees Dorothy Murray, 76, and Phyllis Scheck, 79.

Giffords remained in critical condition early Jan. 10 after surviving a single gunshot wound to her brain at point-blank range. Three other victims shot at Giffords' congressional event north of Tucson were in serious condition and doctors said six were in fair condition, according to a Arizona Republic newspaper website report.

"We were all deeply saddened by the events in Tucson today," Diocese of Arizona Bishop Kirk Smith said Jan. 8 in a short statement. "We hold Representative Gabrielle Giffords, her family and friends, and all involved in our prayers. I would like to ask that everyone include the victims and their families in your prayers both at home and at church. I ask all diocesan clergy to include them in the weekend's Prayers of the People."

Smith also participated in an interfaith prayer service at the state capitol in Phoenix the evening of the shootings.

The Very Rev. Nicholas Knisely, dean of Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix, said during his sermon Jan. 9 that "if we are to stand against the flames of violence and hatred that even now are licking at the edges of our state, we are going to have to live into our vocation as members of the Body of Christ"

"We are going to have create humanizing relationships with each other that will make it impossible to objectify our sister and brother," he said. "We are going to have to make our city, our state and our country into our neighborhood. We must build walls of love with each one of us serving as a brick in that wall. And those walls will stand against the flames."

The audio version of Knisely's sermon is available here.

On the other side of the country, in Washington, D.C., The Very Rev. Samuel Lloyd III, dean of Washington National Cathedral, issued a statement the same evening saying "the prayers and deepest hopes of the entire National Cathedral community are with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the other individuals, their families, and the people of Tucson, Ariz., following this morning's tragic shooting. As the well-being of Ms. Giffords and others in critical care hang in the balance, let us come together in a spirit of unity as Americans and as people of many faiths to pray for their healing and to work for a spirit of peace in our country."

Jared L. Loughner, a troubled 22-year-old college dropout, was charged with five federal counts on Sunday, including the attempted assassination of a member of Congress, the New York Times reported. He is due to appear before a federal magistrate on Jan. 10.