Congregation Seeks to Reduce Gun Violence in the U.S. and to Provide Safe Water in Malawi
July 25, 2016
The ancient biblical vision of turning swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks has stirred the modern-day imagination of Columbia Presbyterian Church in Decatur, Georgia.
Like the prophet Isaiah, the people of Columbia envision a world where devices associated with death are turned into implements that give life. They collected guns from among themselves and the surrounding community and took them to a local artistic blacksmith, who used them to forge a pump that can lift water from wells.
The pump calls attention to gun violence, and it is the centerpiece of a fund-raising effort aimed at purchasing African-made pumps that will be used in Malawi, where many people lack access to safe drinking water.
“It’s not so much an anti-gun campaign we’re trying to launch, but to use the pump itself as a symbol to bring folks to the table to begin some dialogue,” says the Rev. Tom Hagood, Columbia’s pastor. “We really believe there are good people on both sides of the issue, and we think there are some common-sense laws that could be put into place to curb some of the access to guns.”
At the same time gun-related deaths are rising in the United States, children around the world are dying from a lack of safe drinking water, he observes. “We just thought it would really show what swords into plowshares is really all about.”
The pump made its public debut May 21 at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville at a gathering sponsored by the Presbyterian Mission Agency and Mid-Kentucky Presbytery. While the National Rifle Association (NRA) met just a few miles away, Presbyterians and others sang, prayed and gave testimony to the impact of guns on their lives.
The pump has now returned to Decatur and will be displayed around the community as a symbol of the congregation’s conviction that there are too many gun deaths and too few resources devoted to saving lives around the world. Hagood envisions holding events that will showcase the pump and invite people to give money to buy pumps for Malawi.
“We are trying to address the gun issue by saying ‘enough is enough’ and then do something positive,” Hagood says. The congregation is promoting the effort within the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta and through area media.
The idea for addressing gun violence and the need for water in Malawi simultaneously came about during a conversation between Hagood and Presbyterian mission co-worker Jim McGill. McGill and his wife, Jodi, have worked with Malawian partners for more than 25 years to bring safe drinking water to Malawi.
Hagood approached his neighbor Jason Smith, an artistic blacksmith, about crafting the pump. He agreed to make the pump at no charge.
“I guess what resonated with me,” Smith says, “is that I’m a family man with two small children and a wife, and I like several others, felt the pain of gun violence and mass shootings, which have been increasing over the years.”
“If we can prevent one death and help a village get water,” Hagood says, “it’s worth our effort.”
Pat Cole, Communications Specialist, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Let us join in prayer for:
Rev. Penny Hill, Executive Presbyter
Rev. Donna E. Wells, Stated Clerk
Rev. Chip Blankinship, Director of Operations and Congregational Consultant
Rev. Joy Fisher, Congregational Consultant
Cassandra Morrow, Congregational Consultant of Church Growth and Vitality
Rev. Lindsay Armstrong, Director of New Church Development
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
We thank you, God, for forgiving those who abuse weapons. We pray for love and compassion as revealed through your Son, our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.