On the Sunday after a 20-year-old gunman killed 20 small children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, church sermons around the country focused on prayers for the victims and their families, healing the emotional wounds felt by many in the aftermath, and in some cases, a call to political action.
Around Southern California this weekend, priests, ministers, rabbis, imams and other religious leaders have been reaching out to shaken members of their congregations.
At All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, the Reverend Ed Bacon consoled the several hundred parishioners during his late morning sermon. But from the pulpit high above the pews, Bacon also pointed to the failures of society and politics when it came to action against violence.
"It is clear that God does not stop the killing of children," Bacon said to those assembled in the packed church, some of whom wept at times. "He does not stop war or genocide or horrible suffering or torture. That is our job description, not God’s."
He added: "We ask at a moment like this one, 'Why?' while at the same time, God is asking us, 'Why?' "
Bacon urged congregants to take a stand against gun violence and support tighter restrictions on firearms, as several other religious leaders have done since Friday. The same message was echoed during Sunday services at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
After the Pasadena service, some parents were visibly moved. Outside the church with her three young children, ages three, five and eight, Winter Williams of Pasadena said she had little faith in a near-term solution for gun violence. But she felt strongly about the need for greater awareness of mental health needs.
“I think the issue of mental health awareness is something we struggle with, and we sweep it under the rug a lot," Williams said. " I think a lot of people are embarrassed to admit they have mental health issues and seek the help they need. But I think it is something that we definitely need to get a grip on now, because I don’t think I can take another travesty like this, and I don’t think the world can.”
Williams choked up when she talked about how afraid she is at the idea of dropping her kids off at school again. But, she said, “we can’t live in fear."