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Presbyterian Week of Action draws to a close with a quiet vesper service pleading for an end to gun violence

‘If you find it difficult to believe in God or anything else in this time, that is OK’

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Colin Lloyd via Unsplash

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Week of Action concluded Sunday with a meditative vesper service lamenting the nation’s gun violence, which kills nearly 100 of God’s children every day.

“If you find it difficult to believe in God or anything else in this time, that is OK,” said the Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, director of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, during a time of intercessory prayer as part of the service that was recorded June 2 just ahead of Gun Violence Awareness Day. “The world is enduring mass death and trauma. To believe is to risk.”

“We trust that you are a God who is patient with these doubts,” Kraus told the Almighty, “a God who is not threatened by our unbelief but draws near to us in it. Help us toward an understanding of you that includes tension and mystery.”

The service included snippets from the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program’s 2019-20 series, “Standing Our Holy Ground: A Year-Long Look at Gun Violence and What the Faith Community can do About It.” Among them:

  • The Rev. Cleoda Walker, clergy to Safe Streets Violence Interrupters: “Whatever I can do or say to stop gun violence, I’m going to do it. Our responsibility is not to sit behind a church wall, but to gout out into the streets and confront people. God created us to love one another and to live in peace. Amen?”
  • Virginia Classick, chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles: “This movement is not anti-gun. Mothers Against Drunk Driving is not anti-car … About the fact that 92 people die each day in this country from gun violence, there cannot be two sides.”
  • The Rev. Robert Hoggard, a pastor and doctoral student: “I pose this question to you: Does your theology suffocate protest? If we move how we think, we can move how we act.”
  • The Rev. Sarah Logemann, author of “G-NS: A Resource for Generous Dialogue About Gun Violence”: “Young people are very much in this world. They are already talking about [gun violence prevention] and drilling for it from age 5 on. If we don’t address this with young people in congregational settings, I think we do them a disservice. I think our silence actually communicates something as well.”
  • Jennifer Bronson, a statistician and social science analyst with the Bureau of Justice Statistics: “How the media represents victims and perpetrators becomes very important in what us, the general public and society, think about criminality, risks and who deserves to have their violence interrupted to have a prevention program, to be treated, to be healed, to be healthy.”

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program’s Simon Doong offered these words of prayer: “God who is moved to tears, in a world of so much trauma and tragedy, it is difficult not to become numb. We confess we are desensitized to the cries of our neighbors. We confess that the horror of gun violence rolls off us like water.

“Help us from our familiarization with pain, that it would always rouse our spirit. Keep us from that obsessive attunement, which is prone toward savior complexes and feigned allyship, and lead us into a kind of solidarity that reminds us that in pausing to bear witness to suffering, we do not become the rescuer. We do not become the voice.

“And free us from the responsibility to feel every pain at once. Help us to discern our capacity for solidarity, for lament, and when we stand and when we rest and allow others to do so — remembering that our activism is shared among a collective. We are not alone. Amen.”

Gun violence prevention resources can be found here. Watch the vesper service here.

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