Redlands UMC sent this signed prayer message to churches in Aurora.
Courtesy of Redlands UMC
By Susan Kim*
July 31, 2012 —Is prayer a form of disaster response? In the wake of a shooting at a Colorado movie theater that left 12 people dead and 58 injured, prayer is not only considered a response—it may be the most important form of care, said the Rev. Gary Haddock, Disaster Response coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference.
In the wake of the violence, the Rocky Mountain Conference purchased a full-page advertisement in The Denver Post in order to send a widely circulated message that United Methodists are praying for the people of Aurora, the city in which the theater was located.
In addition, Haddock's church, Redlands UMC in Grand Junction, Colorado, sent a prayer message signed by its members to churches in Aurora.
“We are making copies and sending our message to churches—all churches, not just United Methodists—in Aurora to help them know that they're not alone. I think that there are a lot of people who feel helpless,” he said.
Haddock was Disaster Response coordinator in 1999 when two students in Littleton, Colorado, fatally shot 12 of their peers and one teacher, and injured 21 other students. In the wake of that tragedy, Haddock said, UMCOR deployed teams with specialized training in spiritual and emotional care. “The teams helped people to talk to youth leaders so that they would be able to watch for signs that indicated if the kids were having trouble coping with their emotions,” he said.
Today, United Methodist conference-credentialed “Care Teams,” with standardized UMCOR training, are responding to an increasing number of disaster survivors across the nation.
In an incidence of violence such as the shooting in Aurora, spiritual and emotional care is often the most visible response, said Mary Hughes Gaudreau, a US Disaster Response consultant for UMCOR.
Not every conference has Care Teams, but Gaudreau believes that day is coming. “Care Teams are an incredible resource for pastors,” she explained, “because when a disaster happens, someone is already there who has thought through the best resources.”
The church has a responsibility to provide spiritual care, she added. “We have unbelievable strength as a people of faith.”
Churches are often the best-equipped body to start bringing hope back into a community, agreed Gordon Knuckey, also a US Disaster Response consultant for UMCOR.
“The church's role is to help people reach the recognition that God didn't do this,” he said. “We're never far from God's comfort. It's important to stand alongside people. Otherwise, how can you wrap your head around what happened? I can't.”
UMCOR’s church bulletin insert on spiritual and emotional care following disasters is a resource for your church. Help support Care Teams that offer hope in times of tragedy. Please contribute to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670.
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to umcor.org.