I invited those who were worshipping online with my church community to look for the presence of Jesus standing beside them in their homes, in their work, in their grief and struggle, and in our worship and fellowship together even in these unsettling and scary days of the COVID-19 pandemic. I reminded my congregation to breathe and to know that God’s Spirit is in them, around them, and between them. And I sang to them from a hymn by Tom Booth: “Here I am, standing right beside you. Here I am; do not be afraid. Here I am, waiting like a lover. I am here; here I am.”
Together with Canadians across the country, I was shocked and saddened by the developing news reports from Nova Scotia as we moved through Sunday. I can hardly believe that these small, friendly, rural communities just experienced the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history. As I listened to a community member on the news commenting that Portapique was not the kind of place where people locked their doors, but maybe they would think about doing it now, my thoughts returned to the disciples in their locked room.
I began to pray in that moment, that the people of Portapique and the other affected communities would have an experience of Jesus standing beside them in the midst of their fear. I prayed that those who have suddenly lost their loved ones would know the Spirit’s consolation as close as their own breath. I prayed with gratitude for the members of the RCMP and other emergency personnel who hurried to the aide of those communities, putting themselves at risk, and doing everything they could to put an end to the violence.
Although the death toll is currently reported as at least 17 people, the only one that has been identified is RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran and married mother of two, who was killed Sunday morning responding to the active shooter incident. As a church, let us keep Heidi’s family and community in our prayers, as well as all the families of those who were killed.
Let us also pray for the pastors and churches of Nova Scotia, that they will know Christ’s presence standing beside them and the Spirit’s breath equipping and empowering them as they minister to the hurting people of their communities. Especially in this current context of staying home and physical distancing, may the church find faithful and creative ways to share God’s love with those who are grieving.
The first place I visited after becoming Moderator last summer was Nova Scotia. I enjoyed the beauty of the province and the warmth and hospitality of the people. Today my heart breaks with the thought of the pain and sorrow that they are experiencing. May the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding be with them now and always.
—The Rev. Amanda Currie,
Moderator of the General Assembly