Senate chaplain calls on lawmakers to 'move beyond thoughts and prayers' after Nashville shooting

The Senate chaplain on Tuesday issued a prayer for lawmakers to “move beyond thoughts and prayers” after a shooting at a Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, killed three students and three staff members.

Chaplain Barry C. Black in his opening prayer on Tuesday told lawmakers, “Eternal God, we stand in awe of you. Lord, when babies die at a church school, it is time for us to move beyond thoughts and prayers."

“Lord deliver our senators from the paralysis of analysis that waits for the miraculous. Use them to battle the demonic forces that seek to engulf us,” Black added.

Black was referencing the phrase “thoughts and prayers,” a now-common response by officials and celebrities to mass shootings or other tragedies.

Black, a retired Navy rear admiral who has served as the Senate chaplain since 2003, does not typically make comments as direct as his Tuesday remarks. But he has previously delivered more sharply worded prayers, saying during a government shutdown in 2013 "Forgive us also when we put politics ahead of progress."

The Office of the Senate chaplain is "nonpartisan, nonpolitical and nonsectarian," according to the Senate website. The chaplain's duties include opening Senate sessions with prayers, as well as "counseling and spiritual care for the senators, their families and their staffs."

Black’s prayer on Tuesday came as authorities released police body camera footage from the deadly Nashville shooting. The Covenant School students who died on Monday were all 9 years old. The staff members were in their 60s.

Officials identified the student victims as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney. The staffers were Katherine Koonce, identified on the Covenant website as “head of school;” Cynthia Peak, a substitute teacher; and Mike Hill, a custodian.

The attack marked the 129th mass shooting in the country in 2023, according to Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit organization that tracks gun violence.

President Joe Biden on Monday called on lawmakers to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“It's heartbreaking, a family's worst nightmare,” Biden said. “We have to do more to stop gun violence. It's ripping our communities apart, ripping at the very soul of the nation. We have to do more to protect our schools so they aren't turned into prisons."

Contributing: Joey Garrison, John Bacon, Jorge L. Ortiz and Chris Gadd; USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nashville shooting: Senate chaplain addresses 'thoughts and prayers'