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Twenty pastors and church leaders gathered on Wednesday, October 4 in the Fireside Room of Grace Presbyterian Church for the Quarterly Southern Nevada Clergy Luncheon. The original focus of the lunch was to be on ministry to senior adults in our congregations; however, the October 1st mass shooting in Las Vegas clearly became the new order of the day. We enjoyed a delicious lunch that included Taiwanese delicacies from the Rev. Paul Chen in honor of the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrated in China, Taiwan and other Asian countries.

The program was led by our Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) Response Team, the Rev. Ed Spence and Elder Gail Farnham. Gail opened the program by sharing some of the ways that PDA responds to disasters around the nation. She reminded us that PDA is available not only for the immediate response to a disaster but also for long-term support. She also thanked the Presbytery of Nevada for their financial support of PDA and for the invitation to come and be a caring presence and resource.

Following her presentation Ed began by inviting us to share how we are doing in the wake of the horrific tragedy. He then guided us through the Four Phases of Human Caused Disaster Response and the pastoral care responses that are appropriate in each phase. Those present recognized that it is still too soon to fully understand what the long-term needs will be among our church members and the community, but it was helpful to get a sense of what is before us as people move from the initial devastation to a “new normal.” PDA also provided two excellent resources for all the pastors, Light Our Way: A Guide for Spiritual Care in Times of Disaster (from National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster NVOAD) and Recovering From Un-Natural Disasters (Westminster/John Knox) by Laurie Kraus, David Holyhan and Bruce Wismer.

Some of the insights shared included the importance of people having a safe place to share their feelings, to tell their story. Churches can provide these opportunities so that members and the community can find supportive listeners in a caring environment. We talked about the importance of creating rituals for honoring victims, praying for all who were affected by the shooting and helping people move toward healing. The importance of listening was emphasized several times as people need to process how this event has impacted their lives.

We closed our time together with prayer and the plan to meet again in a month’s time for support and updates. A special thanks to Rev. Jim Houston-Hencken, Rev. Dana Pope, Rev. Paul Chen and to our PDA Response Team.