Another victim with Presbyterian connections has been identified as among those who died at the hands of a lone gunman in Tucson, Ariz., Jan. 8.

Gabe Zimmerman, an aide to U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords — who was apparently the main target of Jared Loughner, the alleged mass murderer — came from a staunch Presbyterian family, according to the Rev. John Matthew, a longtime Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) executive from Boise, Idaho.

Matthew told the Presbyterian News Service Jan. 10 that he and his wife, the Rev. Judy McKay, are headed to Tucson to Tucson for the memorial service for Zimmerman and the five other victims of the shootings.

Phyllis Schneck, a member of Northminster Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Ariz., was also among those killed in the shootings.

Schneck’s pastor, the Rev. Andy Ross, described her as “vibrant, fun, and a devoted woman of faith. Her smile, her commitment to the mission of Jesus Christ, and her friendship to so many will long be treasured.”

“It (Zimmerman’s shooting death) has been a terrible shock for our whole family,” Matthew told PNS in an email. “We watched him grow up. He was ten years old when Judy and I were married 20 years ago on Jan 20. We were at his graduation when he got his MSW from Arizona State. He was a wonderful, caring young man, truly gifted in dealing with people. We always loved him as though he were our own grandson.”

In the wake of the murders, prolific Presbyterian hymn-writer the Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette has re-released two hymn/prayers that are available for use by churches supporting the National Council of Churches and Church World Service.

God of Mercy, You Have Shown Us

A Hymn Lamenting Gun Violence

BEACH SPRING D  (“God, Whose Giving Knows No Ending”)

God of mercy, you have shown us ways of living that are good:
Work for justice, treasure kindness, humbly journey with the Lord.
Yet your people here are grieving, hurt by weapons that destroy.
Help us turn to you, believing in your way that brings us joy.

On a street where neighbors gather, shots are heard; a young girl dies.
On a campus, students scatter as the violence claims more lives.
In a family filled with anger, tempers flare and shots resound.
God of love, we weep and wonder at the violence all around.

God, we pray for those who suffer when this world seems so unfair;
May your church be quick to offer loving comfort, gentle care.
And we pray:  Amid the violence, may we speak your truth, O Lord!
Give us strength to break the silence, saying, "This can be no more!"

God, renew our faith and vision; make us those who boldly lead!
May we work for just decisions that bring true security.
Help us change this violent culture based on idols, built on fear.
Help us build a peaceful future with your world of people here.

In interfaith worship services, this line may be used in the third stanza:

Change  "May your church be quick to offer loving comfort, gentle care."
 to "May we all be quick to offer loving comfort, gentle care."

This hymn was written at the request of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program for International Peace Day, September 2009. 

God, We Have Heard It


God, we have heard it, sounding in the silence:
News of the children lost to this world's violence.
Children of promise! Then without a warning,
Loved ones are mourning.

Jesus, you came to bear our human sorrow;
You came to give us hope for each tomorrow.
You are our life, Lord God's own love revealing.
We need your healing!

Heal us from giving weapons any glory;
Help us, O Prince of Peace, to hear your story;
Help us resist the evil all around here;
May love abound here!

By your own Spirit, give your church a clear voice;
In this world's violence, help us make a new choice.
Help us to witness to the joy your peace brings,
Until your world sings!

This hymn was written on the day of the shootings at the Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.