A Message from Bishop Mark W. Holmerud
by Kathye Hamm
In the past two weeks one of our Sierra Pacific congregations located south of San Francisco received notes on their door threatening gun violence during a Sunday worship service. The notes were disturbing and contained threats against the pastor and the congregation. With the increasing number of incidents of violence in houses of worship in this country, these threats were taken very seriously. The police were notified, and provisions were made to ensure the safety and well-being of the pastor, congregational members and those attending worship and other meetings at the church.
An investigation was also begun into who the author of these notes might be. I met with Pr. Joshua Serrano and a few of the members of Holy Trinity Lutheran on the Sunday after they received the first note. We took some time to talk about how the people of the congregation were doing and what steps had been taken to add to the security of their worship. And we took time to pray, to help the members and the pastor “reclaim” their sanctuary to be just that – a place of safety and well-being.
Sadly, we have learned through images captured by security cameras that the person writing and leaving the notes is a retired pastor on our roster. He was arrested at his home and has been charged with making these threats. His name, and the reasons he has offered for doing this I will not include in this missive. He has been placed on leave from his service as a visitation and outreach pastor at another of our congregations. Much of this information was shared by e-mail with rostered leaders of our synod last Friday and has been covered by media outlets in the Bay Area.
My reasons for sharing this sad and shocking story with you are threefold. First, I ask for your prayers for the members of Holy Trinity Lutheran and Pr. Joshua Serrano as they move forward in both the relief of knowing that the person who threatened their worship life and their lives has been arrested, and the shock of learning who this person is. Secondly, I ask for your prayers for the retired pastor, whose name is known to God, and for his family, friends and colleagues who were no doubt shocked and saddened to hear of his arrest. And lastly, that we continue to work together to ensure our congregations are places where people gather in safety and security. If you haven’t already done so, please check with your local interfaith and ecumenical groups to find out what conversations and trainings are available to help prepare congregations do just that. Take care.
February 18, 2020
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