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Virginia Baptists Offer Support After Mass Shooting in Virginia Beach

Posted: 6/4/19 at 3:30pm.

BGAV joins countless others across the Commonwealth and the U.S. in support of the Virginia Beach community following the tragic mass shooting that occurred Friday.

Lynn Hardaway, Network Missionary/DOM for the Bridge Network of Churches, reflected on the events of last few days:

“Our initial response to Friday’s mass killing was to support St. John’s Baptist Church in their prayer vigil Saturday night. About 100 people attended the vigil, including one man who worked in Building 2 who knew most of those who were killed. Many of our churches are holding vigils this week.”

According to a WTKR article, St. John’s pastor, Charlie Brown, said, “When we saw the news Friday, we knew what to do. We had to open our doors to the community so close to this.”

Brian Williams, BGAV field strategist for the Tidewater region, attended the vigil. He recounted:

News of the tragic event in Virginia Beach this past Friday traveled quickly through the Tidewater community. There were numerous personal connections and deeply impacted relationships in our region. Among the communities of faith that reached out to our grief-stricken area was St. John’s Baptist Church.

As individuals gathered for the vigil, it became evident that people from all parts of the community began to come together as a family. Scripture was read, songs were sung, words of hope and reflection were offered, candles were lit, and prayers for those who lost family members along with prayers for the family of the shooter were offered.

“St. John’s offered the community the gift of a place of redemption where seeds of healing could be sown among broken hearts, families, coworkers and the larger community.”

One of the things that surfaced throughout the gathering was that there were connections of compassion that were deeply experienced and freely expressed among people who otherwise would have never encountered each other. St. John’s offered the community the gift of a place of redemption where seeds of healing could be sown among broken hearts, families, coworkers and the larger community. In such difficult and painful moments, we were reminded that as people of faith we are held together by God’s story of redemption and the promise that his Kingdom will bring complete and total renewal.

Hardaway explained further about positive steps The Bridge Network is taking for the near future and toward the long term. “We have reached out to the association in Connecticut that responded to the Sandy Creek tragedy for guidance and ideas of ways we can help our community grapple with the shock and grief associated with this horrific event. One Christian counseling firm in our area has offered to provide free counseling to people directly affected by the murders; when we learn of those individuals, we are referring them to that agency. We have also sought guidance from the North American Mission Board in responding wisely to this kind of disaster. We are preparing content for our pastors to assist them in their discussions with people who are struggling with the emotional/spiritual/mental aspects of sudden grief.”

John Upton, BGAV Executive Director, offered these words of encouragement and appreciation:

As a native of the Virginia Beach/Chesapeake area, I would like to express my deep gratitude to The Bridge Network for responding so compassionately and quickly to the shooting tragedy in Virginia Beach. While serving others, the staff of the Bridge Network were also part of the crisis that struck the Virginia Beach community. They are good friends and I hope we can support them as we join them in offering prayers and healing resources to the churches and community. 

This has been a tough week touching base with friends from my youth who work in the municipal building. Though all were safe, they have lost many of their friends and colleagues and are deeply grieved. Each of them has shared their terrifying and heartbreaking stories, but they have also shared their amazement at the support and care they have received from churches in the community and beyond. When the Christian faith is lived well, it is a beautiful thing. Our prayers and love remain with our Virginia Beach family and The Bridge Network.