In the wake of the shooting in Virginia Beach this past weekend, pastors are doing their best to help people grieve and process what happened. While their efforts naturally involve encouraging people to love and support one another, pastors are also exhorting congregants to remember they are always in a spiritual battle between good and evil.
“Tonight we pray for those families crushed in spirit,” said Pastor Archie Callahan at a vigil at Bridge Church on Saturday, according to USA Today. “We bear their burden in prayer.”
Processing a Nightmare
Various churches in Virginia Beach have already held vigils to honor the deceased and help the community heal, and more events are planned for this week. USA Today reports that one attendee of a vigil held by Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church said, “I was very upset. I couldn’t process what was happening.” But she expressed how meaningful it was to her to have a chance to support the victims and their families.
The Sunday morning following the shooting, Pastor Brandon Shank of Lifehouse Virginia Beach Church encouraged members to pursue God and not to let the evil that had occurred define them. He said, “We are not a city of darkness and evil…God is running rampant around here.”
Pastor Shank also pointed to the bravery of the first responders as a reminder that Christians are to be the first responders in the spiritual war that surrounds us. Said the pastor, “The Bible tells us we struggle not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities of darkness… It is against the evil that is trying to take over people.”
Members of Mount Olive Baptist Church also took the shooting as a reminder of the battle between light and darkness. The Washington Post reports that six members showed up at the municipal complex the day after the shooting to pray, having been encouraged to do so by their pastor. Said one, “Our pastor called for us to come out and pray on the grounds, because our colleagues and our neighborhoods and our city need God. And we want to be able to be that light in a dark world.”
On Friday, May 31, which Mayor Bobby Dyer called the “most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach,” DeWayne Craddock opened fire at a municipal building, killing 12 people and injuring four. Craddock, 40, worked for the city of Virginia Beach as a certified professional engineer. According to The Washington Post, he shot his first victim in the parking lot and then entered the building, where he fired at random on all three floors using legally purchased weapons. Police received the first call about the situation soon soon after 4 p.m. and arrived at the scene quickly because the police department is located near the municipal complex. After arriving, officers engaged in a gunfight with the shooter, who died soon after.
Craddock had been an employee with the Department of Public Utilities for 15 years and had reportedly exhibited no major signs of being upset or violent prior to his shooting rampage. While he had sent an email that morning announcing he was resigning, he did so of his own volition and was not facing disciplinary action.
Leaders in Agreement
The city’s leadership seems to agree that how the members of Virginia Beach define themselves following this tragedy will be significant. Said Mayor Dyer, “We will not be defined by this horror. Going forward we will define ourselves as a city of love and compassion for those neighbors that we lost.”