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Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath looks beyond statistics

Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, Peace Fellowship have resources for action and remembrance

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Carl Horton, coordinator of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, speaks at a Travel Study Seminar in Los Angeles on March 1. (Photo by Rich Copley)

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — The statistics for gun violence jump off the page:

  • 40,614 gun violence deaths in the United States this year
  • 919 children under age 12 have been shot
  • 985 teens have been killed
  • 10 million guns flow into the United States every year

But this coming weekend asks Presbyterians to look deeper than the statistics.

“Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend is the opportunity for us to remember that the victims of gun violence are more than statistics,” writes the Rev. Deanna Hollas, Gun Violence Prevention Ministry Coordinator for the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. “They are real people with real names and families that suffer long after the shooting occurs.”

Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, a para-church organization, and the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, one of the Compassion, Peace & Justice Ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, have done extensive work addressing gun violence and creating resources for congregations and communities.

Among the most recent was “Standing Our Holy Ground,” a year-long webinar series the Peacemaking Program created in cooperation with the Peace Fellowship to explore gun violence from a variety of perspectives. The series wrapped up in June and is now available in its entirety on the Peacemaking website.

“It’s been eye-opening for us, and I hope for the church,” Presbyterian Peacemaking Program coordinator the Rev. Carl Horton said following the final webinar.

“I think we made it very clear that gun violence isn’t just about guns,” producer Simon Doong said, noting the series looked at how gun violence intersects with poverty, education, racism, mental health, media, and other issues, and how they are all connected. “There are real human issues and human causes that are in there as well.”

And that’s what the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath aims to shine a light on.

In addition to “Standing Our Holy Ground,” the Peacemaking Program has extensive resources available for education and action on gun violence, including Presbyterian policy regarding gun violence.

For the weekend observance, Thursday through Sunday, Dec. 10-13, the Peace Fellowship offers a Congregational Toolkit with scriptures, hymns, prayers and liturgy that churches can use in their worship services.

The Rev. Deanna Hollas is Gun Violence Prevention Ministry coordinator for Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. (Contributed photo)

“It has been my experience that most people (including myself) do not become active in ending gun violence until they are affected or feel their children are at risk,” Hollas writes. “With many schools closed due to COVID-19, school shootings are not a concern — but that does not mean our children are safe from gun violence.”

Hollas also notes an aspect of gun violence that has been the subject of a lot of debate this year.

“As churches remember the victims of gun violence, I encourage you to remember that police violence is also often gun violence,” she writes. “The Washington Post has logged every fatal shooting by an on-duty police officer since 2015.  One thousand-and-15 people have been shot and killed by police in the past year. You can find and say their names here.”

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