Prayer was the first call to action by the American faith community after news broke of the bombings near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
“In moments like this, we do not know what to say or how to say it, but will you join me in the prayer of the psalmist, ‘God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble,'” said Sudarshana Devadhar, bishop of the New England Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
“Even in the midst of such tragedies may we continue to strive for a world of peace and reconciliation, as followers of the risen Christ,” he said.
“Please join us in prayer for all those injured at the Boston Marathon today and for the emergency workers who protect and care for us all,” read a statement from the Archdiocese of Boston.
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley said, “The Archdiocese of Boston joins all people of good will in expressing deep sorrow following the senseless acts of violence perpetrated at the Boston Marathon today.”
O’Malley said, “In the midst of the darkness of this tragedy we turn to the light of Jesus Christ, the light that was evident in the lives of people who immediately turned to help those in need today.”
The Boston cardinal added, “We stand in solidarity with our ecumenical and interfaith colleagues in the commitment to witness the greater power of good in our society and to work together for healing.”
The Islamic Society of North America issued a statement of concern and condolences.
“ISNA is shocked and saddened to hear about the blasts at the Boston Marathon this afternoon. Our prayers are with the victims and their loved ones,” read the statement. “While it is still unclear who carried out these attacks, we pray that our law enforcement officials will be able to swiftly apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice.”
Jewish organizations also offered prayers.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Greater Boston community, courageous runners, family, friends and those visiting from the United States and abroad,” read a statement from the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston and Jewish Community Relations Council of Boston.
Baptists also reacted to the bombings.
“These attacks are antithetical to God’s will. There can never be a credible justification for any such act,” said Roy Medley, general secretary for American Baptist Churches-USA.
“We utterly condemn acts of violence and find them heinous and cowardly,” he said. “Our hearts go out to the families of all the victims.”
Other Baptists responded with tweets.
“What do you say when there is so much to say but so few words with which you can say it?” tweeted Michael Ruffin, pastor of First Baptist Church in Fitzgerald, Ga.
Matt Cook, pastor of First Baptist Church of Wilmington, N.C., tweeted, “Avoid hate because hate is the place where those bombs were made.”
As the news unfolded, I offered a number of tweets, ranging the need to be cautious to the media’s amped-up speculation about the perpetrators being either right-wing extremists or Islamic terrorists.
I also tweeted a link to an EthicsDaily.com editorial from Sept. 11, 2001.
That editorial drew attention to the seven touchstones in the Sermon on the Mount that help us in times of such painful bewilderment.
For the most part, the blast of the first shockwave moved people of faith to prayer and expressions of lament.
But what does the American faith community do after praying and mourning for the Boston bombing victims?
The concluding words from my Sept. 11, 2001, column hold as much weight now as then.
“When some rush towards revenge, those of faith must be slow to speak about retribution. When some quickly denounce Muslims and demonize them, we must avoid the false witness that universalizes harmful attributes to those of different religions,” I wrote.
“When some seek purely military solutions, we must recognize the sad duty to use force to establish justice in a sinful world. When some ignore the social soil that nourishes hate, we must seek the welfare of the poor and oppressed.”
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.