by AT News Team

Friday as word spread about the tragic gunning down of 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Adventists began to respond. In the early afternoon Pastor Michael Fortune, senior pastor of the First Seventh-day Adventist Church of Toledo, Ohio, decided to set aside the sermon he had planned for the next day. Instead he decided to pick a few appropriate hymns to sing and invite the congregation to pray and share their personal testimonies. This would do more to help people deal with their feelings than anything he could say in a sermon
 
“There really are no good answers to something like this,” a Maryland pastor told Adventist Today. “If you say it is a sign of the times, then you make God sound like He doesn’t really care about the pain and loss involved. If you lay out a logical theology of evil, you are ignoring the fact that evil defies logic because it is evil. If you say the world is getting worse and worse, and this is why Adventists are looking to the return of Jesus, then you make us sound arrogant and insensitive; we are using tragedy to toot our horn.”
 
“This is the season we sing ‘Come, O Come Emanuel’ and Emanuel means God with us,” said a Florida pastor. “The best we can do at a time like this is do what God did; be with people—sit silently and suffer with people. It is not the appropriate moment to confidently proclaim answers. It is the right time to carry a cross.”
 
The officers and department heads of the denomination’s North American Division were in a retreat on Friday. As soon as they heard of the mass shooting, they went to their knees and spent time in prayer. “Our hearts ache over yet another senseless shooting within the past few weeks,” said Pastor Dan Jackson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America on Friday mid-day. “We pray that God's Spirit will break through the ghastly shadow of death to bring comfort and support to those who are grieving and broken.”
 
The suburban Havre de Grace Church, “a small congregation comprised almost entirely of immigrants from Haiti” was visited by a television crew from Fox Channel 5 in Baltimore on Sabbath morning. “Parents in a small rented chapel seemed to be holding onto their children a little more closely than usual,” reported John Henrehan. “And maybe praying a little harder than usual.”
 
“We need to stand up with those who are experiencing this kind of evil, this terrible situation,” said Pastor Rodney Charitable. “And stand by them to let them know, even in this situation, there is hope because Jesus still loves them.”
 
“My heart goes out to those families,” said his wife Grace, a Registered Nurse. “And I say, ‘God, please help them.’ That’s all I can say, ‘God please help them.’ I mean, what could you say to somebody like this?”
 
Rocky Twyman, an Adventist Church member well known in the Washington-Baltimore region as an activist, happened to be the guest speaker for the day and called on the congregation to turn their sorrow and frustration into demands for stricter controls on firearms. The denomination has been on record since July of 1990 seeking greater restrictions on gun sales. (See the statement here: https://adventist.org/beliefs/statements/main-stat4.html.)
 
Hundreds of Adventist churches on Sabbath and over the last few days have opened their doors for special prayer vigils, at least one starting on Friday night. The Philipsburg, New Jersey, Church hosted a community prayer service from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday, according to Lehigh Valley Live.
 
The official Adventist News Network (ANN) issued a statement on December 15 with the condolences of Pastor Ted Wilson, president of the General Conference (GC), from Germany, where he was participating in a youth congress. “The tragic killing of young children and others … fills us with … enormous sadness,” he stated. “We share our profound sympathy … with the families who suffer such terrible loss.”
 
Pastor Ryan Bell, senior pastor of the Hollywood Church, helped organize an Interfaith Prayer Vigil to End Gun Violence which is scheduled for Friday at Los Angeles City Hall. “Every day in America 87 people die from gun violence,” he stated on behalf of the Abrahamic Faiths Peace Initiative. “Help us send a message to President Obama and our local, state and Federal legislators that we urgently need an assault weapons ban and background checks for all gun buyers.”
 
With sickening irony an Adventist pastor in Minnesota shot his granddaughter the Monday night before the Connecticut tragedy (December 10) thinking she was an intruder. The Star Tribune reports that Pastor Stanley Wilkinson, pastor of the Rochester, Minnesota, Church, told police that he heard someone outside his home. “When he saw a figure at their patio door, he … fired two rounds, hitting the person once. That person turned out to be his [16-year-old] granddaughter [who] he thought … was sleeping upstairs.”
 
The pastor “had a plan on how he would use his gun if an intruder ever came to his home,” reporter Pam Louwagie writes in a copyrighted story. “He and his wife would hole up in the bedroom and call 911, using the gun only to let an intruder know there was someone in the house.”
 
“Even if you have a plan for an emergency, you don’t know what you’ll do out of fear,” Wilkinson told the reporter in an interview he agreed to do to help others learn from his story. “You get so frightened and … everything happens so quick … you just don’t know what you’ll do.”
 
“Rochester police released a 911 transcript of the call from the house, with the pastor’s wife begging for help in saving her granddaughter,” the Star Tribune reported. “According to the transcript, the woman told a dispatcher, ‘there was an intruder, my husband thought there was an intruder, here it’s our granddaughter … she’s been shot, please! … She’s bleeding, bleeding bad!’ … explaining to the dispatcher that the girl was bleeding from the chest.”
 
The teenager was rushed to the hospital with a wound in the upper torso and is expected to survive. Wilkinson had seen a news report about a burglary in the community just before he went to bed that evening. “I had a plan but I didn’t follow the plan,” he told the newspaper. “I thought somebody was breaking into my house; it just scared us to death.”