Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
3745 Kimball Avenue
Memphis, Tennessee 38111
901 743 6421

The article is taken from THE TRACT, September 2019 issue



From the Desk of Rev. Tom Momberg



1, 3, more than 250.

The number of 2019 mass shootings in Canada, Mexico, and the USA.


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Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be afraid, for I am your God.

~ Isaiah 41:10


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Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.

~ Hebrews 13:2



          On a recent Saturday afternoon, I injured my back. The resulting pain was severe enough to make it hard for me to stand for any length of time, let alone walk. Those of you who were in church the next day know that I preached while sitting down. During my recovery from that injury, I have been thinking about how much my mobility means to me. My brief disability has reminded me of my mother’s wisdom: “Keep moving!!”


          Some people, however, simply cannot keep moving in the ways most of us do. Now, when I watch Sam wheel his mother Mary Beth in and out of our worship on Sunday and our Wednesday Bible Study, I’m reminded that walking, let alone running, is a gift. Today, five days after my injury, I know I could run if I had to, but I hope I don’t have to very soon.


          A few weekends ago Americans had to run - for their lives. In Texas, Ohio, California - even closer to home in Southaven, Mississippi - innocent bystanders could no longer stand around. Dozens of children, women, and men were being killed and wounded, regardless of their mobility.


          More and more, stores, bars, festivals, theaters, schools, even places of worship no longer feel safe to us the way they once did. Mass shootings - incidents where four or more people die from gunfire - are so prevalent, it’s easy to become comfortably numb to them. Yet in our 21st century times of trial and trouble, fear is very real. These times may prompt us to ask, in the midst of fear, even terror: Where is our God? Where is the God who claims to be a very present help (Psalm 46:1)?


          A few days after my injury, I was part of a panel on a local radio show. Leonard, a Missionary Baptist pastor and friend, asked me to join him and a COGIC bishop at the WLOK studios. We were asked to respond to the bishop’s charge to his own clergy that “spiritual power” was needed to solve “the gun problem” in our nation and in our communities.  


          Bishop Hall shared with us seven goals for his clergy: to unite; too fast and pray; to be more ecumenical; to contact legislators; to update terrorism watch lists to include white supremacist groups; to address black-on-black crime; and to collaborate.   I told the bishop and the listening audience that I endorse all seven goals, and that I’d share them with Bishop Phoebe Roaf.


          Here’s what I didn’t say on the radio: For me, our need for safety and security, in both human and divine forms, cannot be found absent from God’s call to us. As people of faith, we are called to be communities that are also welcoming and hospitable - for by doing that, some have entertained angels without knowing it, as the final phrase of Hebrews 13:2 puts it. While angels will probably never show up in body armor, carrying assault weapons, we can’t automatically assume we’ll know who the real angels are.


          By the time you read this, your Vestry and I will have been on retreat together. We will have begun to consider, among other things, what our spiritual response to gun violence now needs to be here at Holy Trinity. As followers of Jesus, empowered by the Spirit of God, I believe we are called to respond anew - with God’s help, in faith, amidst our fears - to holding both safety and hospitality in a creative, dynamic tension.


          Pray for us, your elected leaders. We will also hold you in prayer. I pray Holy Trinity will engage in courageous conversations about how we can become a safer, more hospitable church. I also pray you will continue to be assured of the presence of Emmanuel, God with us, no matter what.


~ In the peace of Christ,