A message from Transitional Presbyter Shannan Vance-Ocampo for the first week of Advent.

In our scripture for the first week of Advent we hear these words from the prophet Jeremiah:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”  (Jeremiah 33)

I asked this question at the beginning of the week:

“Who are where is Judah for you as we begin Advent? For what are you praying to be made safe again as we begin Advent?”   

This week has made my questions even sharper.  Two mass shootings this week alone, and other individual shootings happen every day, but never make the news.  Violence has reached epidemic proportions in our country.  

As those who follow Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, we must repudiate all violence.  It is not just guns, but so much of how we behave and live with each other, even in the life of our Church can be violent.  The repudiation of violence as an act of faith must happen on the large scale, but even more so, in our day-to-day lives.  

We are distructful, we hold onto grudges or past wrongs, we do not always believe the best about each other.  This week I watched the movement of the Spirit in our midst as our Trustees and Committee on Ministry met.  At both meetings, there was deep and honest sharing, a laying down of past hurts and a naming of pain.  Around the table at the Committee on Ministry, some tears were shed.  I could feel the power of God’s Spirit in the room, accompanying us in our work.  When the Spirit shows up in this way you can feel its power — we cannot end violence alone, it must always be done with the accompaniment of God’s presence.  I saw it this week and want to share with you that the Spirit is staying near and close to us in our work in Albany Presbytery, thanks be to God!

What to do about the violence around us?  I know we are all heartbroken and for many, feeling helpless to the near daily vision of another mass shooting, another video of terrified people running away from a public building.  Our fear, deep-down, that we are afraid to voice is that our church buildings are public places — will the violence ever enter there?  

I encourage you to read our denominational resources on gun violence called Gun Violence, Gospel Values.  We also have a documentary produced by Presbyterian Mission Agency on gun violence, titled Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence.  I have a copy of this in the office I am willing to loan out, just let me know if you’d like to view it or use it with your congregation.  I believe that people are desperate for another way forward, one that lets go of violence, one that repudiates harm to others.  If you need additional resourcing, please let us know.  

“Who are where is Judah for you as we begin Advent? For what are you praying to be made safe again as we begin Advent?”

May we dig deep in this first week of Advent to be bearers of the Peace of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

About Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo

Shannan grew up between the Jersey Shore and Philadelphia and have also lived at various points in Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey and upstate New York. Internationally, I have lived in Scotland, Greece and Colombia. My family is transnational, my husband is an immigrant and we divide our time between the United States and Colombia. You can learn more about Shannan at: https://srvoconsulting.com

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