For the Very Rev. Gary Hall, tenth dean of the Washington National Cathedral, the Connecticut killings are the last straw in the debate about gun control.
At two worship services Sunday, Hall appealed to worshipers to help lawmakers pass legislation that would limit access to weapons. The Episcopal Church has advocated gun control for many years.
“Why do we as a society tolerate these massacres in increasing numbers?” Hall said. What does it say about us as a community of human beings that we are willing to put our children, not to mention their teachers, in so much jeopardy? ... What are we, as people of faith, to do?”
Hall called on the nation to address gun violence, urging faith communities to take the lead in pushing for effective gun-control measures, particularly access to assault weapons. He called on people across religious traditions to “serve as a counterweight to the gun lobby.”
“Enough is enough,” Hall said. “As followers of Jesus, we have the moral obligation to stand for and with the victims of violence and to work to end it. We have tolerated school shootings, mall shootings, theater shootings, sniper shootings, workplace shootings, temple and church shootings, urban neighborhood shootings for far too long.”
At the 11:15 a.m. sermon, worshipers interrupted Hall with applause. At the 8:45 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. services Sunday, many worshipers rose for a standing ovation after Hall’s sermon.
“I believe the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby,” Hall said.
Bill Roe, of Tucson, who regularly visits the cathedral when in Washington, called Hall's entreaties “very appropriate” as he left the cathedral.
Another worshiper, who declined to give his name and said his wife is in law enforcement, said he vehemently opposes Hall’s stance.
Nancy Harvey, who was visiting from Seattle, has grandchildren ages 7 and 9.
“It is heartbreaking,” Harvey said. “How can we identify these people who are deranged? Didn’t some teachers notice? Was he seeking revenge? … God has a purpose for everything, but I don’t know what this purpose is. I don’t think He’s punishing us, but maybe He’s trying to get our attention.”
Greg Schoenebeck, of Chevy Chase, Md., said that Hall’s call for tougher gun laws, like President Obama’s call for “meaningful action,” was “heartfelt and timely.” Twenty 6- and 7-year-olds and seven adults died in Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Conn., and the gunman killed himself.
“Personally I do see gun control is necessary,” Schoenebeck said, hugging his 3-year-old son Blake, as he spoke to local media.
Standing beside her husband, Heather Schoenebeck, holding their 1-year-old daughter Summer, nodded in agreement.
“It’s just heartbreaking,” she said about the Newtown shootings. “I tear up just thinking about it,” her husband added.
On gridirons across the country, National Football League teams observed moments of silence before their games.
In Riverdale, the Rev. James E. Jordan, pastor of Refreshing Spring Church in Christ, took a moment during the church’s annual Christmas program to pray that broken hearts will mend.
“We need protection over our children, protection over our families, protection over our cities and the nation,” Jordan said. “Cover us, cover us in the name of Jesus.”
Related content on On Faith:
* Graham: Why the shock and awe?
* Pace: Comfort the grieving
* Stanley: In tragedy we grieve; in God, we hope
* Quinn: Where was God?
* Thistlethwaite:God weeps: 27 children, staff killed in Conn. school shooting