Prayer and Action
August 8, 2019
My heart is heavy as I reflect on the adversity the city of Dayton has faced in recent months. Home to United Theological Seminary and many students, faculty and staff, Dayton, Ohio, has been the source of endless media coverage these last ten weeks, from a KKK rally in May, to the devastation of 15 tornadoes on Memorial Day, and now, a senseless shooting leaving nine dead and 27 injured. The shooting on August 4 closely followed shootings in Gilroy, California; El Paso, Texas; and Chicago.
As a pastor of a church in addition to my role at the seminary, I knew that this past Sunday morning couldn’t be “business as usual.” We changed everything on the fly for our worship service, including songs, prayer time, Scripture readings and time at the altar. It was a holy time amid grief.
People’s sadness and grief have turned to anger, and rightfully so. I am saddened and angry for not only what happened in Dayton but what continues to happen around the country.
During these times, I am reminded that:
- Evil is real. There is no way of getting around it. We have an enemy who, as Jesus said in John 10:10, “steals, kills and destroys.”
- The battle is in the physical world but also the spiritual. The Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:12 are an important reminder: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
- The Church, the body of Christ, has an opportunity to be God’s tangible healing agent on earth. The phrase “on earth as it is in Heaven” in the Lord’s Prayer is more than just a prayer but a mandate for the Church to help build God’s Kingdom here on earth.
- Prayer and action are necessary. It can’t be prayer alone without action. And action apart from prayer won’t change anything, because it’s on our own strength. St. Augustine said, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” I must confess, it’s hard to know what action to take.
One action that we are initiating at United Theological Seminary is a time of worship, prayer and communion with area pastors and churches. Open to the public, the service will take place Friday, August 9, 5:30 p.m. at United’s campus at 4501 Denlinger Road, Dayton, OH 45426. During this time, we will also collect an offering to benefit the families of the shooting victims through the Dayton Oregon District Tragedy Fund established by the Dayton Foundation. Those who are unable to attend in person may donate online at give.united.edu; type “Dayton Strong” in the designation field.
In light of the recent tragedies, United is also extending a discounted rate to next week’s Summer Preaching Seminar, “Words That Heal: Trauma-Aware Ministry,” to support and equip pastors who are ministering to communities in the midst of trauma. Those interested can use code “DaytonStrong” to receive 50% off registration. Dr. Joni Sancken will lead three days of teaching, August 14-16, on responding to trauma in individuals, congregations and communities.
Let us continue to be a people of prayer and action.
Dr. Rosario Picardo
Dean of the Chapel
United Theological Seminary