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Presbyterian pastor calls for end to gun violence, promotes Guns to Gardens event

Service takes place ahead of National Gun Violence Awareness Day

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Angela Johnson is pastor of Grace Hope Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — A Louisville, Kentucky, pastor summed up the nation’s gun violence crisis with a three-word refrain on Wednesday: “Enough is enough.”

The Rev. Dr. Angela Johnson, pastor of Louisville’s Grace Hope Presbyterian Church, delivered a brief but powerful sermon during a morning chapel service for employees of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The online service was held in honor of National Gun Violence Awareness Day, coming up on Friday. During the gathering, Johnson raised troubling questions about the state of the country where gun violence has led to more than 7,000 deaths this year.

“Have safety and security become things of the past?” Johnson asked. “What has happened to the idea of God’s beloved community? Have our cities become the degenerate cities of Isaiah’s time where justice and righteousness have been chased out of town by the right to bear arms and by neighborhood beefs? Enough is enough.”

Johnson had opened her message by listing Columbus, Ohio; Rock Hill, South Carolina; and Lower Santan Village, Arizona. Those are three of the 14 places where shootings had occurred since June 1 that involved more than one person being shot at one time.

“Enough is enough,” she said.

Johnson would continue to repeat that phrase and to mention more city names, including her own, noting that at least 16 people were shot recently during one weekend in Louisville.

“Enough is enough,” she said.

Taking the sermon beyond statistics, she spoke of societal failings, including delighting too much in personal privilege and privileged dollars that go to rebellious princes who fail to take care of orphans and widows. She also spoke of the real-life impact that gun violence has on those it touches.

“Non-Violence” by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd is exhibited at the United Nations. (Photo by Rich Copley)

“The slogan ‘Guns don’t kill people. People kill people’ pales in the faces of countless family members who have lost a loved one to gun violence and rends the souls of those who have been traumatized as family members, as victims and witnesses of these mass shootings, the aftereffects of such drama, living on in their dreams and memories,” Johnson said.

In addition to mentioning recent shootings, she recalled how in April 1999 she was relaxing on the couch when regular television programming was interrupted by breaking news of the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. She said she could not understand how such a “horrific thing” could happen, and she recalled how her mind turned to “our own two kids in two different schools and thinking about all the ‘what ifs.’ Since then, according to one source, there have been 404 more school shootings. Enough is enough.”

Though groups such as Moms Demand Action and No More Red Dots are striving to prevent such tragedies, “there is more work that needs to be done, working from a different direction but with the same goal of reducing gun violence,” Johnson said.

One such effort is the Guns to Gardens initiative, which makes it possible to “beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks by taking unwanted guns, using a chop saw, and turning them into gardening tools, so they will no longer exist as weapons of possible harm,” she said, “so that our youth will not solve their issues with guns anymore, but with tools of compassion, so that our young adults will not use guns to prove their position in our communities but with tools of respect, so that older adults will not live in fear of leaving their homes but will enjoy the tools of peace.”

Lastly, “nation will not lift up sword against nation and we will study war no more because enough is enough,” she concluded.

In addition to her sermon, the service featured prayers, songs, and awareness raising about a Guns to Gardens Louisville safe-surrender event from 2-4 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday at the Church of the Promise/The Table at 1800 Portland Ave. Anyone with unwanted guns can turn them in and receive a gift card. After being disabled, the weapons will eventually be transformed into tools, art or jewelry.

Go here to learn more about the Guns to Gardens event, which is being organized by a group of concerned individuals from faith and community groups as part of the Guns to Gardens movement being fostered by Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and RAWtools.

To review and learn more about gun violence resources from the PC(USA), go here. Your congregation may be interested in applying for a Decade to End Gun Violence grant or attending the James Atwood Institute for Congregational Courage.

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