A day after a senseless act in Toronto claimed the lives of 10 people and injured 13 more, churches in the area are responding.
Pastor Bruce Jones is the senior pastor at Willowdale Baptist Church, in North York. "Our church is within steps of where all this happened," Jones says.
Yesterday at 1:30 p.m. EDT a white van drove up onto the sidewalk at Yonge Street and Finch Avenue and proceeded to drive for blocks running over pedestrians in its ways.
"We're within a stone's throw of Yonge and Finch," he says. "Many people from this area will walk through our church parking lot on their way up to the subway at Finch. So, we're right there."
"We need to have a passion for Jesus Christ, and a compassion for each other."
A surreal sight, sombre
Jones says that a memorial has sprung up at nearby Olive Square, where he visited this morning.
"It's kind of a surreal sight for the thousands of people that walk by there every day to see it the way it is now," he says.
People began gathering at the park not long after the attack, leaving cards, messages on poster boards, flowers, and candles.
"There's a really neat outpouring of love and support written on those sheets in various languages. But it's a really sombre memorial there right now, and I anticipate it will be for some time."
Churches uniting in response
Jones says that his church has opened up their doors to be a place of rest for those that need.
"Different ones of us on staff will be praying with people, and just offering some encouragement. One of the guys who takes care of the kitchen and his wife are coming in and they're going to make up coffee. We're going to just try to have as welcoming an environment as we can here for as long as possible."
Jones says that there is a prayer vigil at 1:30 p.m. local time Tuesday, and then a prayer walk through the neighbourhood this evening at 6:30.
"The churches in this area are starting to work together to say 'How can we be a blessing to this community in the midst of this?' Not only now but in the coming weeks and months."
"If we're not praying for our enemies . . . then there's something wrong."
How we can pray
Social media has been flooded with the prayers of many, but at times it can be hard to know how to pray or what to pray for. Jones offers some prayer requests.
"First of all, we so appreciate and are encouraged by the fact that believers around the country just want to support this area and people ministering in this area (by praying for us)."
He says that as we pray for people like him that are now left to minister to a shocked and grieving community wisdom is what's needed most. "Pray for wisdom. That we would have the opportunity to speak into the lives of everybody that was affected by this.
"We need to have a passion for Jesus Christ, and a compassion for each other.
"So, I guess wisdom that we would have and take the opportunity to speak into the lives of all people. And that we would be able to discern, as the Holy Spirit works within us, what the needs, the hurts, and the cares are of the people as they come to us. Not only today and tomorrow but for the next weeks and months."
The Rt. Rev. Kevin Robertson is the Area Bishop of York-Scarborough in the Diocese of Toronto. He says that at a vigil last night "We really tried to pray as much as possible for as many people as possible. So you pray for the obvious, the people who have died and those who've been injured."
Robertson points out that the needs go far beyond those people, however.
"Just thinking of the collateral damage, there are the family, friends, and eyewitnesses." Robertson says he met a witness at the vigil last night, and people like her will need prayer as their lives have ultimately changed forever.
Robertson and Jones both point out too that as Christians we should be in prayer for the person that committed the attack.
"I think we have an absolute responsibility to pray for the driver of the van as well," Robertson says. "Whatever was going on in his mind, and in his heart, and in his spirit, God only knows. But we have a responsibility as Christians to pray for forgiveness and a sense of peace."
"We need even compassion for the perpetrator of this crime," Jones echoes. "Not that it legitimizes anything that was done, but we need to realize that there are a lot of people who are hurting and alone and that our God can provide what they need for their lives if they would only turn to him."
Robertson says that "If Christians aren't praying for - I don't want to say our enemies, but that's the biblical language - if we're not praying for our enemies, for those who do harm to us, for those that don't like us, then there's something wrong. That's the call upon our lives in Christ. To pray for those who persecute you to use the language of Scripture."
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