Pastoral Letter on Oakland Shootings

March 26, 2009
by Bob Matthews

BobMatthewsSmallFollowing the fatal shooting of five people—including four police officers—in Oakland on March 21, 2009, PSR alum Bob Matthews (MDiv 1973), acting senior minister of Hillcrest Congregational Church in Pleasant Hill, CA wrote the following pastoral letter.

MARCH 24, OAKLAND — I send greetings to you, beloved sisters and brothers in Christ. May His grace and peace be with you.

I write this evening to share with you the heaviness that is on my heart. I have just returned from a candlelight vigil on the corner of MacArthur Boulevard and 74th Avenue in Oakland, very near where Oakland Police Sergeants Mark Dunikan, Erv Romans and Daniel Sakai, Officer John Hege, and Lovelle Mixon were all shot and killed last Saturday. That street corner is just eight blocks from my home.

This tragedy occurred in my neighborhood. I was at our neighborhood post office, at MacArthur Boulevard and 80th Avenue, on Saturday afternoon at the very time this carnage began. This evening I stood with hundreds of my neighbors and many others from throughout the city to grieve and to pray for forgiveness and for healing. Mostly, the prayers offered were prayers for the slain officers and their families. Among the many clergy and political leaders who spoke, there were only two vague and indirect references to the fact that five people died in all that bloodshed last Saturday.

Through the barrage of news reports we have all learned many details of the lives of the dedicated and courageous Oakland police officers who lost their lives. We have also been shown how Lovelle Mixon, the instigator of this horrible incidence of violence, is seen at least in the eyes of the media only as a demon bent on wreaking havoc on peaceable society.

I learned through conversation with one of my neighbors during tonight’s vigil that the Mixon family has resided in my neighborhood for several generations. They have been stable, law-abiding citizens here for many years. They have lost a son, a grandson, a husband, a family member. The Mixon family remains a stable, law-abiding family in my neighborhood.

There can be no argument that the events of March 21st were horrendous. There should also be no doubt that all of the people involved were born as children of God.

Even in the face of desertion and betrayal Jesus loved all of his disciples to the end. I beseech you, dear friends, as we approach the most sacred and holy week of our religious lives, let us pray for all of our sisters and brothers. Let us love them all to the end.

I write with prayers for many blessings and with love. 

 Pastor Bob


response to Pastoral Insight

Thank you for acknowledging the loss on both side of this tragedy. As a parent of a law enforcement officer my daily prayer is for those who place themselves in harms way in order that our society has some semblance of order. I also pray for those whose lives are not allowed to reach its full potential because of our continued denial of basic human rights to the minority majority. Until we as a people move beyond yes we can to yes we will will educate, feed, house, cloth and give basic respect and dignity to the least and disenfranchised. Our families will lose our most precious resources, sons and daughters.

Thank You Pastor Bob

Thank you Pastor Bob for remembering the family of the slain young man in the horrific ordeal of March 21, 2009 and humanizing this family. You are absolutely right, sooo many people are praying and remembering the officers, but let us not forget the children, parents, grand-parents,spouse and community members connected to this young person.

Also, I am wondering about burial plans for this young man as the media seems bent on ignoring the family's tragedy and funeral plans.

P.S. Let us all remember to lift up all the families in prayer and use this opportunity to continue winning souls for the kingdom and saving lives through our faith walk,love and compassion.

Thank you, Bob

Many of us have been holding our grief for these five people, Bob, and I so appreciate your letter. You gave voice to what I have been thinking - that all loss is tragic and all of God's children deserve to be mourned. This is such a heart breaking situation and it calls on all of us - those who are in Oakland and in her sister cities - to pull together to provide improved education, health services and support systems for each and every one of us. While Jesus calls us to respond in love, he also calls us to action. I pray that we can pull together as a faith community to help all who are in need, there in Oakland and beyond. With gratitude for your leadership, Your Sister in Christ, Laura

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