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