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Today in the Mission Yearbook

James Atwood Institute for Congregational Courage set for Ghost Ranch Aug. 22–25


Presbyterian Peace Fellowship honors a gun violence prevention prophet by multiplying courage

July 13, 2024

The Rev. Jim Atwood (Photo by Della Orr-Harter)

With every event of gun violence, does the Spirit tug at you to do something? Yet what? And how? And do I have the courage and skill to do it? Or… I’ve been working on this — how do I become more effective?

If these questions call to you, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship invites you — and perhaps others from your church — to attend the inaugural James Atwood Institute for Congregational Courage at the Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center in Abiquiu, New Mexico, Aug. 22–25. Honoring the late Presbyterian prophet of gun violence prevention, James Atwood, the Institute will offer intense continuing education for clergy and lay leaders in a range of educational, pastoral and action strategies for gun violence prevention mission in the local congregation.

“In the church we speak of energy, intelligence, imagination and love,” said the Rev. Margery Rossi, acting coordinator of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship’s Gun Violence Prevention Ministry. “To that list, Jim Atwood urged the cultivation of courage. None of those spiritual gifts matters unless we have the courage to act on them.”

The purpose of the Atwood Institute is to cultivate this courage by providing new skills and an ongoing community to overcome the sense of frustration, helplessness and isolation that church leaders can feel on gun violence prevention and other difficult issues.

Occurring annually, the Atwood Institute will train clergy and lay leaders in Gun Violence Prevention (GVP) practical skills for congregational use, including preaching on and discussing GVP effectively, managing opposition and trauma, emergency response to gun violence, and engaging congregations and communities in practical GVP education and action.

The institute is ecumenical, welcoming all denominations. It will offer hands-on training for Guns to Gardens events, including the opportunity to transform a gun into a garden tool. Additionally, participants will have the option to follow up the event with quarterly online gatherings with their Atwood Institute community, with a goal of encouraging one another over time.

Father John Dear

At 7 p.m. Mountain Time on Thursday, Aug. 22, Father John Dear will offer a keynote address for the Ghost Ranch event, speaking on the faith basis for courage to prevent gun violence. A Catholic priest, author of 40 books and a globally recognized activist for Christian nonviolence, Dear’s latest book is “The Gospel of Peace: A Commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke from the Perspective of Nonviolence.”  Congregations in the area are invited for Dear’s address.

The cost for the 3½-day Atwood Institute will be a $180 registration fee per person. Participants are responsible for their own travel and lodging at Ghost Ranch. Family members are welcome to come for daily Ranch activities or a time for renewal.

Download a brochure about the Atwood Institute at Ghost Ranch here.

Space is limited. Register for the Atwood Institute here. For questions about the Atwood Institute, send an email here.

Thanks to sponsors for the event, some scholarships will be available. In addition to the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, sponsors include First Presbyterian Church of Santa FeThe Presbyterian Outlook and New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence. To participate as a sponsor, please contact Rev. Jan Orr-Harter, Moderator of the Peace Fellowship’s Gun Violence Prevention Working Group, here.

Jim Atwood was a Presbyterian missionary, pastor, author and avid hunter whose life was re-directed when a member of his Virginia congregation was murdered with a $20 handgun in 1975.  For nearly 50 years, he called the church of Jesus Christ to take action to balance the rights of responsible gun owners with the right to live free from an epidemic that now takes over 43,000 lives in our country each year.

Established in 1944, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship is a nationwide community of Presbyterians committed to the nonviolence of Jesus Christ. Learn more here.

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship Activist Council Gathering is set for Aug. 25–28 at Ghost Ranch. Atwood Institute participants are welcome to stay for these days of worship, training and community. For questions about the Peace Fellowship Activist Council Gathering, contact Christa Galvin here.

Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Special to Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: James Atwood Institute offers continuing education on gun violence

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Steve Maier, Network Support Engineer, Information Technology, Administrative Services Group (A Corp) 
Raymond Manuel, Facilities Technician, Stony Point Center, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Let us pray

Lord, bless us with renewal. We pray our community would be blessed with one mind and spirit in feeding your flock. By your Holy Spirit, inspire and enable foolish moves leading to the flourishing you have promised. Jesus, you call us to feed, by the power of your Holy Spirit. May we answer. Amen.