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Pastoral Letter to Korean partners following ferry disaster

April 24, 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ in the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea and the National Council of Churches in Korea,

On behalf of the congregations and members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, we offer our deepest condolences to the people of South Korea upon the tragic SEWOL ferry accident of Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Our feelings have moved from shock to anguish as we joined the world in watching and waiting with hope as rescuers searched for survivors among the 476 persons on board, only to have the worst fears of families and loved ones confirmed. We grieve for the hundreds who are surely lost, and feel particular sorrow at the deaths of so many young people who were headed to Jeju Island on school retreat, most of whom were trapped inside as the vessel sank. While we rejoice with families reunited with those who were rescued, we continue to pray for comfort and peace for the loved ones of the many who have been confirmed dead or who are still unaccounted for.

As ecumenical partners of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea and the National Council of Churches in Korea, we hold your communities of faith especially close in our hearts and minds. Yet we will keep all of the people and the leadership of South Korea in prayer during this difficult period of mourning and in the important work of investigation into the circumstances of the accident. While no answers will fully assuage the grief for those killed, we pray for a full, fair and just resolution to the inquiry so that the heart of the nation might proceed to heal.

We recognize the special period of April 21 to May 5 designated by the National Council of Churches in Korea for prayer for the victims and families of the ferry accident, and call upon all our churches and members to also join in prayer. In this time of Easter, we offer these words of prayer:

O God of Mercy, hear the prayers of your people.

Come near to those whose loved ones died in the tragic SEWOL ferry accident. Attend to the sorrows of the anguished, and to the pleas of those seeking answers or even the knowledge of the fate of those they hold dear. The needless deaths of so many, especially of hundreds of young people, troubles our hearts and confounds our understanding. Grant to the families of victims, to the people of South Korea and to us your compassion and the peace of Christ that has the power to calm troubled waters and comfort troubled hearts.

We give thanks for the lives of those who survived and who were rescued from the sinking ship. We pray for the courage and continued endurance of those conducting the search and recovery of the many trapped in the vessel or lost to the sea. We pray for the people of South Korea as they come to terms with the causes of this tragedy and engage in the challenging journey of grieving and healing together as a nation.

Redeemer Christ, hear our prayers.

As Easter people we believe that the resurrection reveals the promise that life prevails over death and that joy can rise from the depths of sorrow. In this moment of immense sadness, be with us and sustain us. Comfort and assure us of your mercy and enduring love, for you are our hope and strength.

In the name of the risen Christ we pray,


With the peace of Christ,

Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins 
General Minister and President,
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Rev. Geoffrey A. Black
General Minister and President,
United Church of Christ
Rev. Julia Brown Karimu 
President, Division of Overseas Ministries
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and
Co-Executive, Global Ministries
Rev. Dr. James A. Moos
Executive Minister, Wider Church Ministrie
United Church of Christ, and
Co-Executive, Global Ministries


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