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Mid-Kentucky Presbytery engages in dialogue around the issue of gun violence

Screening of ‘Trigger’ stirs up candid and emotional responses

by Emily Enders Odom | Presbyterian News Service

With the Rev. Dr. Jim Kirk to her right, the Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus introduces the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance film, “Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence” to Mid-Kentucky Presbytery on Monday. (Photo by Emily Enders Odom)

LOUISVILLE — Following yet another weekend marred by deadly gun violence in Louisville, Mid-Kentucky Presbytery opened its May 22 stated meeting at Briargate Presbyterian Church with a screening and small-group discussion in response to “Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence,” a documentary directed by David Barnhart as part of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance’s Story Productions.

In introducing the 2012 film, the Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, director of Humanitarian and Global Ecumenical Engagement for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, spoke of the “significant and life-changing work” around mass violence events that brought both her and her colleague, the Rev. Dr. Jim Kirk, to serve in PDA’s national offices.

Kraus and Kirk, who were both longtime PDA volunteers and pastors in Florida, began to study how events like 9/11 mimicked the disaster cycle. They were part of the founding specialty team that was doing trauma work with people who had experienced catastrophic events, which led to the production of “Trigger.”

“We began to feel that it was important to get out the stories of people who have experienced gun violence, and the people who have done follow-up work in advocacy and building community awareness,” Kraus said. “Working together with David Barnhart, we began to find and tell those stories. ‘Trigger’ is now 12 years old and … is still a very effective piece.”

In response to a General Assembly mandate, PDA is in the process of updating “Trigger” with a revised version set to debut at the 226th General Assembly (2024). The new “Trigger” will have segments that can be excerpted for viewing in different contexts as well as a new worship component.

“At the end of the film, there’s a list of mass gun violence events,” Kraus noted. “Originally it was two pages long, but now it is horribly and intolerably much, much longer.”

Those attending Monday’s meeting of Mid-Kentucky Presbytery at Briargate Presbyterian Church in Louisville watched and discussed the film “Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence.” (Photo by Emily Enders Odom)

Following Kraus’s introductory remarks, presbyters broke into small groups to process their reactions to the documentary. In groups, participants shared what they noticed and felt in viewing the film, where they saw the Church in relation to the issue of gun violence, and what role people of faith might play.

“I think what touched me the most [in the film] was that although there were different contexts, the emotions were the same,” said the Rev. Dr. Mary C. Nebelsick, mission associate for Mission Interpretation for Presbyterian World Mission. “Regardless of the context, the emotion of shock was there — the loss of love that they had for the other person and the love the other person had for them.”

In addition to Kraus and Kirk, PDA’s associate for National Response and a member of Peace River Presbytery, the Rev. Carl Horton, coordinator of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, also helped present the material.

The session concluded with a Taizé style service of worship with music by the Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, associate for worship in the PMA’s Office of Theology and Worship, and Kevin Kouba, music director at Briargate. Kouba is also the primary chef for The Welcome Table, a feeding ministry that is a key part of Briargate’s call to the Matthew 25 movement, and to which the presbytery’s offering was dedicated.

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