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Guns to Gardens event coming to General Assembly on Sunday in Salt Lake City

Congregations have led witnesses for gun violence prevention throughout the month of June

by Presbyterian Peace Fellowship | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Several PC(USA) churches have taken to wearing orange to show their support for gun violence prevention, including members of Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kansas. (Contributed photo)

As the nation reels from mass shootings, local Presbyterians have joined with other faith communities to mark Gun Violence Prevention Month by “Wear Orange” events and Guns to Gardens safe surrender days, most held in church parking lots. The June gun violence prevention activities will culminate in Salt Lake City on Sunday with a Guns to Gardens demonstration as the PC(U.S.A.) gathers for its 226th General Assembly.

“We are thrilled to host an event of this importance,” said the Rev. Jamie White, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Salt Lake City, where the Guns to Gardens demo will be offered during the Commissioners’ Luncheon from 11:15 a.m. through 12:45 p.m. Mountain Time at 12 C Street, a short walk from the Assembly gathering. With metal workers and blacksmiths from the nonprofit RAWtools and Utah’s Wasatch Forge, the demonstration will show how congregations can learn to safely and legally dismantle an unloaded firearm and forge it into a garden tool. The event is co-sponsored by the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah.

“Unlike our typical Guns to Gardens events, where the public can bring unwanted firearms, the June 30 event will be demonstration of the process just for General Assembly participants and others who can watch it by livestream,” said Nancy Halden, Communications Director of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah and a local Presbyterian elder.

First Presbyterian Church will livestream the event on Facebook and YouTube. Other congregations that are hosting Assembly guests for lunch are able to share the livestream of Guns to Gardens, at their option. It will be available later as a recording on the Facebook page of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship here.

During the 225th General Assembly (2022), the PC(USA) became the first denomination to commend Guns to Gardens as a faithful witness for congregations. Episcopalians, United Church of Christ, Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, Catholics, Methodists, Baptists and others have joined in offering this way to responsibly dispose of unwanted guns without risking them being stolen or returning them to the gun market where they could do future harm.

On June 8, First Baptist Church in Asheville, North Carolina, hosted a Guns to Gardens day with broad sponsorship from other congregations, as well as Hood Huggers International, RAW Tools South and the Burton Street Peace Garden in the historically African American Asheville neighborhood. The “Be Smart for Kids” campaign volunteers provided free gun locks and the Deep Time coffee shop created a special “RAW Tools Roast” coffee to support the event. The event dismantled 56 firearms, all of which will be transformed into garden tools, art or jewelry.

Congregations reporting June Guns to Gardens events include those in Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, New Hampshire, Utah, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Colorado, where the Lakewood event dismantling 47 guns. The first Guns to Gardens event in Charleston, West Virginia, was in May at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, dismantling 27 firearms, including seven semiautomatic guns. Reasons that gun owners offered for surrendering unwanted guns included “I can’t store it securely” or “I’m worried that my kids will find it.”

Other Presbyterian congregations joined in “Wear Orange Sabbath” on June 7-9. On June 7 Scipioville Presbyterian Church in New York sponsored a 12-hour Zoom reading of the psalms as a memorial to victims of gun violence. Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kansas, participated in the proclamation of June 7 as National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Mission Sewing of Village Presbyterian Church created orange ribbons and pins for the city-wide event. The Rev. Margery Rossi, pastor of South Presbyterian Church in Dobbs Ferry, New York, spoke at the June 7 lighting in orange light the Mario Cuomo Bridge across the Hudson River. Rossi is also the acting coordinator of the Gun Violence Prevention Ministry of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.

Members and friends of First Presbyterian Church in Henderson, Texas, planted orange crosses to remember the victims of gun violence. (Contributed photo)

In Henderson, Texas, First Presbyterian Church members planted orange crosses on June 7 to remember gun violence victims. They also provided information about gun violence as well as gun locks for those have firearms at home. The secure storage of firearms is the focus of an overture coming to the PC(U.S.A.) General Assembly, DOE-03, “An Overture Calling for Action that Children May Live Free from Gun Violence.”

Go here to learn how your congregation can participate in Guns to Gardens in the July 11-August 8 Action Circles offered by the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. Join other church members across the nation for one hour weekly on Zoom.

Go here to find Presbyterian Peace Fellowship’s Gun Violence Prevention Congregational Toolkit and information on the Aug 22-25 James Atwood Institute for Congregational Courage at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico. The Institute will offer continuing education for clergy and lay leaders on gun violence prevention mission, including hands-on Guns to Gardens opportunities.

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