When tragedy strikes, how should the church respond? Dr. Chris Hill, senior pastor of The Potter’s House of Denver, believes the Church must be a refuge where healing can take place. Marking the second year post the Aurora theatre tragedy, Dr. Chris Hill led an initiative to commemorate the lives that were lost and rebuild hope in the community.
The Potter’s House counseling center is the largest free comprehensive counseling center in the Denver region. In addition to offering free counseling services, a special “Hope for Aurora” commemoration took place on Sunday, July 20th.
Community leaders, including both mayors of Denver and Aurora, and families of the lost, joined together for a time of unity and hope. Thirteen trees, symbolic of those lost, were planted to create “Hope Park,” a place where the community can remember their loved ones and receive hope for a brighter future.
Dr. Chris Hill recently spoke with Gospel Today about the “Hope for Aurora” initiatives, and how in the midst of tragedy, the Church and community can come together to heal.
GT: Why is “Hope Park” significant to the community?
CH: Well, just two years ago, we lost 13 lives from our community and we really wanted to help provide some level of closure, not only for the families that were directly affected, and for the 70 people that were injured in the Aurora shooting, but for the greater community as well. “Hope Park” for us represents something very positive.
GT: What was your motivation in initiating this venture?
CH: We just see it as the work of the Church, and the community of faith, to walk with people in triumph and in tragedy, and in some way, walk people from tragedy to hope.
If the church has no impact on the community, then we really don’t have a right to be in a community.
GT: When you think about the Church as a whole, what should be our response to tragedy?
CH: Well, as you look at the rise of violence all over our nation, and in the world in general, I think as the ambassadors of Christ and the ambassador of the “Prince of Peace” in the Earth, it becomes incumbent upon the Church to be a vehicle for peace. I think the Church has to step up, and we can’t turn our eye, whether it’s in the inner-cities, or whether it’s in the “bedroom communities” of our metropolitan areas – we still have to be the Church.
It doesn’t mean that we have to leave our location to serve, because there’s so much in our areas that we need to serve, and that’s kind of what the mandate for the Potter’s House was in this…we just really wanted to serve, and I think that we can serve in some small way, as an example, of the greater example, [who] is Jesus Christ.
GT: There’s so much happening in the world. How do we get past it, not ignoring what’s happening, but we’re learning to produce purpose through our pain?
CH: We feel like pain creates the passion to fulfill purpose. When we [look] at the situation in our community, and all of the hurts in the world, it ought to create a compassion, and from that compassion, we get the force to do what we’re called to do. Really the fear that I have for the Church, and for individuals, is that we grow numb, that we get so used to the wrong, that we no longer advocate for the right, that it becomes our new “normal,” but Christ didn’t leave us here to just leave things the way it is. We’re in the world, but not of the world, so that we can be agents of change and catalysts for hope.
Christ didn’t leave us here to just leave things the way it is. We’re in the world, but not of the world, so that we can be agents of change and catalysts for hope.
GT: How important is counseling … in that healing process, when we’re going through challenging times?
CH: One of the prophets saw Jesus before He was born, and one of the names he gave to Him was, “A Wonderful Counselor,” and I think we’ve almost missed that as a part of the mission of the Church. We, at the Potters House of Denver, see that as part and parcel with the Gospel, [that] is we’re going to preach Jesus, and the preaching of Jesus changes lives, but after that process of conversion has happened, there’s often a process of unraveling and unwrapping of the hurts, the harms, the negative things that have happened to people, and we see that as a perfect place for counseling to step in. I don’t think that counseling should be a negative thing in our community, or in the community of faith.
GT: What do you think it will take for churches to continue to shine as a light and a hope in our community?
CH: I think as we follow the example of Christ, and we resist that numbness, that fatigue, that compassion fatigue. In some small way, we can all do our part …
I think it’s better to light a candle, then to curse the darkness, and far too often, we preach against the darkness, but it would be better to preach against the darkness, and get a match too.
GT: What is your hope for the future, as it relates to unity between the Church, and the community at-large?
CH: I’m really hopeful. I think once the Church establishes itself in the community as, “we are here to help,” that our agenda is positive, and we are here to be an addition to the community…what we’re finding out is that [the community is] waiting for us, we can’t absent ourselves from the environment we’re in, because
I believe that wherever God put us, that’s where we’re called to serve.
GT: Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our Gospel Today readers?
CH: I’m really, really encouraged and optimistic that as the church takes its rightful place in the world, as we begin to see ourselves as not just pilgrims and soldiers, but as ambassadors that have been sent into society, we can really make a change in this world, and go into the next world with a “well-done” spoken over our lives.
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