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Congregations respond to gun violence

By Mark K. Brewer I

t seems almost routine. A lone gun- man enters a school, mall or movie theater resulting in death, injury

and community trauma. In cities, gun violence is a daily occurrence and is getting worse in some areas. While those who wield guns have the potential to control communities with fear, Lutherans are making an impact to bring peace back into their neighborhoods.

Responding in Cedar Rapids Dan Baldwin, a student at the ELCA’s Wartburg Teological Sem- inary in Dubuque, Iowa, said, “Gun violence stems from a mistrust, hatred or fear of the other person. Te gun violence then perpetuates that fear, hatred or mistrust.” Te effects of gun violence ripple out into the community—people are afraid that violence will visit them someday. Baldwin recently served as a

pastoral intern at First Lutheran in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and was shocked by the casual attitude of the congregation’s children regard- ing gun violence. “I was not OK with kids growing up in a situation


‘The love of Christ breaks down boundaries and the love of God crosses inter- religious boundaries.’

where they think gun violence is normal,” he said. Community activism against gun

violence in Cedar Rapids, he added, was mostly “small groups doing small things.” Baldwin networked with neigh-

borhood leaders, including the police, the Islamic center, a rabbi, members of the Baha’i community and neighborhood activists, result- ing in an interreligious prayer vigil on July 12 to galvanize the com- munity against violence. Te event drew 175 people and received heavy media coverage. As a result of the vigil, Baldwin

said, “there’s more awareness of gun violence and more of a willingness to respond to it now that it’s more widespread than before.”

‘Faith and Action’ in Chicago In May 2014, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called for a “Summer of

Lutherans around the country are organizing and holding vigils in response to gun violence in their communities.

Faith and Action” to reduce gun violence and asked the religious community to pray for the city. Sharei Green, a member of

Bethel Lutheran Church in Chi- cago’s West Garfield Park neigh- borhood, latched on to that idea and helped organize a vigil on May 22, 2014. Fiſty people gathered in front of the church while dozens of other congregations and organiza- tions held their own events. Green said local pastors offered prayers, the people shared their stories and there was a lot of discussion. Te result of the citywide vigil

was that for 36 hours there was no reported gun violence in Chicago. Te event’s success at Bethel


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