May 16, 2022
Dear People of God in Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania:
Since news of the horrific massacre on the East Side of Buffalo began to spread on Saturday afternoon, the leaders of our diocesan partnership and I have been working to respond. Through prayer, pastoral outreach, and redoubling of our commitment to dismantle systemic racism and end the epidemic of gun violence, we are standing with the people whose lives and community have been ripped apart by this senseless act of terror.
I want to update you on what has happened since I wrote to you on Saturday evening:
Yesterday morning, I joined the people of St. Philip's, Buffalo at the beginning of their worship service to assure them of the love and prayers of the entire diocesan partnership and to pledge that we will stand with them and with the people of the East Side as we find a way forward from this terrible time.
Yesterday afternoon, Denise Clarke-Merriweather of St. Philip's and I led a prayer service online. We prayed for the souls of those who have died, asked God to comfort their loved ones, and gave thanks for the lives of those who survived and for the first responders. I am grateful to my colleagues in Bishops United Against Gun Violence for providing the litany we prayed. As I write, more than 1200 people have participated in the service either as it was happening or using the recordings we have posted online. I was honored to receive a kind note of gratitude from Buffalo Deputy Mayor Dr. Ellen Grant after the service.
This morning, I met with my colleagues on the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable, which is chaired by Justice Rose Sconiers of St. Philip's. The Roundtable is committed to taking action toward a just and racially equitable community in Buffalo, and I am grateful to be part of that work.
Also this morning, our partnership's Commission to Dismantle Racism and Discrimination issued a statement written by Denise Clarke-Merriweather. It is a beautifully articulated call to action against the evil of racism and discrimination, and I urge you to read it and share it with the people of your congregations.
I am also grateful to the other clergy and laypeople across the Diocese of Western New York who have been responding to this horrific act in many ways over the last 48 hours. In particular, I want to thank the Rev. Stephen Lane of St. Philip's, who is a police chaplain and responded to the unimaginably terrible scene of the shooting. I am also grateful to the Rev. Matt Lincoln, who attended a prayer service yesterday that was held to demonstrate the support of the people of the West Side of Buffalo for the people of the East Side of Buffalo. I know that many of you have shown up and taken action for the people of the East Side in ways that I don't yet know, and I thank you for all you are doing.
This afternoon, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry released a pastoral statement on the mass shooting. "I grew up walking distance from the scene of this hateful crime, and my friends and I used to ride our bikes around the neighborhood," he wrote. "Buffalo’s Black community raised and formed me. I grieve with the city and people I love."
Several of you have written to me asking where you might donate to support the community in recovering from this terror. I recommend that, in these early days, we support FeedMore WNY, which is providing food to people who relied on the now-closed supermarket where the shootings took place. You can donate to the FeedMore WNY emergency fund online.
I will keep you informed as we continue to follow the lead of the people of the East Side and provide support and solidarity where it is most needed. In the meantime, please continue to pray God's mercy and care on everyone whose life has been torn apart by this evil act.
Bishop Sean Rowe
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