On July 20, 2012, I was on a family vacation.
My wife and I had just come in from the opening-night midnight showing of the latest release in the popular Batman serial, “The Dark Knight Rises.” My 17-year old son caught a ride back to the hotel with a car full of family members. He received the news first.
Near speechless, he knocked on my door and simply handed me his laptop. I stood in the doorway and watched the screen as it detailed a tragedy unfolding in my own backyard.
I was horrified because just four miles away from the doors of my church, and the door of our home, all hell had broken loose.
A 24 year old, Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience named James Egan Holmes, had walked into the back door of the Century Movie Theater in my Aurora, Colorado. Heavily armed, in moments he injured 70 innocent people and, of that staggering number, massacred 13 of them.
I was literally shaking with emotion. Had my family and I stayed home for vacation, we would have been in that same theatre, at that same time, on that night.
I grabbed my cell phone and called the airlines to get the next flight out — vacation was over.
I flew home to do what pastors do in these situations — organize and participate in prayer vigils, rally and staff-up our grief counselors, comb through my membership rolls to see if any of my congregation had been injured or killed, find out if any members lost loved ones in that theater shooting. Then, I kept my phone in my hand constantly waited for news updates. I walked the floors of our chapel and joined with mourners to pray away the darkness and fear that threatens to take over when something like this happens.
I flew home to preach sermons of hope to a people who felt like all hope was gone.
I flew home to galvanize our community and to try to help dispel the darkness and terror that falls on a city when the safe places are no longer safe. I have been alongside them for the past 3 years.
This call to introduce peace in chaos is quite challenging. With each mass shooting, it gets harder and harder to feel safe in America, no matter where you live.
Violence is no longer confined to the “inner city.” We know, first hand, that it can creep into your quiet suburban mall and interrupt your favorite movie. It now comes to church.
It was June 17, 2015, and again I was on our annual summer vacation, my first real break since the Aurora shooting. Darkness struck again.
A pastor of an African Methodist Episcopal church in Denver, sent me a text message. He asked me to pray for him, saying that he was facing a “difficult” situation.
Having not yet heard the news, I pressed him for information. His following text seemed to bleed red across my screen.
“8 killed by gunman in South Carolina … Emanuel AME Church,” he wrote. “Pastor was killed.” And then he wrote, “He was my friend.”
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: The Christian Post
Rev. Dr. Chris Hill is senior pastor of The Potter’s House of Denver.