On Easter Sunday, as we were worshiping and celebrating our resurrected Lord, two men were shot and critically wounded less than a mile from our church on Shadeland Avenue. I have heard from a few members of our congregation who have been shaken by this act of gun violence during the day, in broad daylight, and on Easter Sunday. I will be honest with you that I have felt this deeply too.
As I got into my car on Easter Sunday after both worship services ended, I felt overjoyed for the morning of worship. Then I learned that northbound Shadeland Avenue was closed with a large police presence in front of Lake Castleton Apartments. My heart sank at the news of more gun violence just down the street.
Our street, our city, and our nation don’t have to live like this. As followers of our risen Lord Jesus, we must respond to this violence. As I have shared before, I fully believe that we are to be witnesses of peace and prayer in our community. This is an important step to take, but our prayer should also lead us into action.
Responding with Action
Here are some actions steps that we are currently working on. Over the summer, we’ll be invited to participate in prayer walks around our community. This is a way for us to be intentionally present, peaceful, and prayerful on the streets of our community. We are looking to host opportunities to prayer walk together monthly over the summer. We will also provide resources on how to prayer walk.
Food insecurity continues to be an issue in our city. We are looking to partner with Gleaners Food Bank this summer to provide leadership for a mobile food pantry hosted on Shadeland Avenue.
These are ways for us to respond to the violence happening in our city.
There are other ideas for us to prayerfully consider.
Maybe we could partner with organizations that offer peacemaking, non-violence, and conflict resolution training. Perhaps we could offer trainings at the church for our community. We could have our own members of the church trained and then sent into our schools and community being teachers of peace, non-violence, and conflict resolution.
I have heard Fr. Greg Boyle from Los Angeles say, “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.” Perhaps we could partner with organizations to host job fairs, career skills training, or simply provide networking for our community.
These are ideas that I continue to pray about, but the one common denominator among all of these ideas is the opportunity to build relationships. Yes, it’s about offering food, teaching peace and conflict resolution, and networking, but it’s also about building relationships with our neighbors.
It’s easy to post on social media about gun violence, but being prayerfully and peacefully present to our neighbors is the way to show and share love. I agree with Fr. Greg Boyle, but I would also add to his quote, “Nothing stops a bullet like a loving relationship.” When someone knows they are loved, cared for, and respected, the temptation to be violent likely decreases.
The church has a responsibility to respond to gun violence through our prayers, our peaceful and prayerful presence, and to advocate at the local and national level for laws that prevent or reduce gun violence. At the 2016 General Conference, which is the decision-making body of The United Methodist Church, the gathering adopted a statement that is in our Book of Resolutions titled, “Our Call to End Gun Violence.”
Below is a part of the statement along with several links. You can read the full statement on the UMC website:
May we continue to reflect, discern, and pray together on how we respond to the gun violence happening across our nation, city, and down the street. May we follow our risen Lord to being the peaceful, prayerful, and non-violent disciples called to make difference right here and right now.
Peace and Conflict Resolution Training Organizations:
Conflict to Peace Resolution Experts
Lombard Mennonite Peace Center
The King Center Nonviolence 365 Education and Training
Violence Reduction Organizations:
CURV Indy Congregations United to Reduce Gun Violence
Marion County Youth Violence Prevention Coalition
United Methodist Book of Resolutions: Our Call to End Gun Violence
“As followers of Jesus, called to live into the reality of God’s dream of shalom as described by Micah, we must address the epidemic of gun violence so “that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in God’s paths.” Therefore, we call upon United Methodists to prayerfully address gun violence in their local context. Some of the ways in which to prevent gun violence include the following:
1. For congregations to make preventing gun violence a regular part of our conversations and prayer times. Gun violence must be worshipfully and theologically reflected on, and we encourage United Methodist churches to frame conversations theologically by utilizing resources such as “Kingdom Dreams, Violent Realities: Reflections on Gun Violence from Micah 4:1-4” produced by the General Board of Church and Society. https://www.umcjustice.org/documents/37
2. For congregations to assist those affected by gun violence through prayer, pastoral care, creating space, and encouraging survivors to share their stories, financial assistance, and through identifying other resources in their communities as victims of gun violence and their families walk through the process of grieving and healing.
3. For individual United Methodists who own guns as hunters or collectors to safely and securely store their guns and to teach the importance of practicing gun safety.
4. For United Methodist congregations that have not experienced gun violence to form ecumenical and interfaith partnerships with faith communities that have experienced gun violence in order to support them and learn from their experiences.
5. For United Methodist congregations to lead or join in ecumenical or interfaith gatherings for public prayer at sites where gun violence has occurred and partner with law enforcement to help prevent gun violence.
6. For United Methodist congregations to partner with local law-enforcement agencies and community groups to identify gun retailers that engage in retail practices designed to circumvent laws on gun sales and ownership, encourage full legal compliance, and to work with groups like Heeding God’s Call that organize faith-based campaigns to encourage gun retailers to gain full legal compliance with appropriate standards and laws.
7. For United Methodist congregations to display signs that prohibit carrying guns onto church property.
8. For United Methodist congregations to advocate at the local and national level for laws that prevent or reduce gun violence. Some of those measures include:
- Universal background checks on all gun purchases
- Ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty
- Ensuring all guns are sold through licensed gun retailers
- Prohibiting all individuals convicted of violent crimes from purchasing a gun for a fixed time period
- Prohibiting all individuals under restraining order due to threat of violence from purchasing a gun
- Prohibiting persons with serious mental illness, who pose a danger to themselves and their communities, from purchasing a gun
- Ensuring greater access to services for those suffering from mental illness
- Establishing a minimum age of 21 years for a gun purchase or possession
- Banning large-capacity ammunition magazines and weapons designed to fire multiple rounds each time the trigger is pulled
- Promoting new technologies to aid law-enforcement agencies to trace crime guns and promote public safety.
See Social Principles, ¶ 162.
From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church – 2016. Copyright © 2016 by The United Methodist Publishing House.