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an impromptu prayer vigil. Jane Baker, pastor, said the

Lutherans, Muslims, Jewish people and members of the Baha’i community came together for the interreligious prayer vigil on violence prevention July 12 in Cedar Rapids.

involved because it affects everyone. Bethel has had a significant number of losses to gun violence—young people, specifically.” Bethel incorporated nonviolence

In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 175 people attended a vigil to galvanize the community around preventing gun violence.

inspired the congregation to launch a nonviolence ministry. Monthly activities continue to raise aware- ness and “inform our community about what’s going on and how to be safe and to persuade people to not be afraid,” Green said. She said it was important to

reach out beyond the walls of the church: “It’s not like Lutherans are the only ones who experience gun violence. We have to get everyone

Author bio: Brewer is a freelance writer in Elizabeth, Ill.

programming into existing events, such as the monthly community meal and the church picnic. It also partnered with neighborhood organizations to host a back-to- school rally that focused on safety. In addition to fun, food and celebra- tion, Green said it was a time to talk about safety and liſt up neigh- borhood victims of gun violence. Tey’re already planning the next rally in August 2016. “We’re inspiring the community

to take care of itself and to know that Bethel Lutheran Church is a safe haven,” Green said. “If you’re afraid or if you need help, we will stand with you and help them through whatever it is they may need.”

Grieving in Southern Oregon It’s not just cities that are affected. On the morning of Oct. 1, a gun- man shot 18 people, nine of them fatally, at Umpqua Community Col- lege in rural Roseburg, Ore. Faith Lutheran Church in Rose- burg responded that evening with

shooting “shocked people to the core. Tey wondered, ‘How could this happen here? What do we do?’ I realized that people may need a place to come to process and pray or whatever they want to do. Tere are questions here we’ll never have the answers to, most likely. As people of faith we have to be OK with that.” Te vigil included about 25

people. Baker said they read from Scripture, sang hymns and “opened it up to people to share their feel- ings. We prayed for the families and the victims. We prayed for our com- munity to get through this.” Baker organized the event “for

those who didn’t want to be with thousands of people” at a citywide vigil held later that evening. She said it’s hard to talk in a crowd of thousands, adding, “I wanted to have something where people could express their feelings.”

The love of Christ For those whose community might benefit from similar nonviolence activities, Green said, “Don’t be afraid. Fear is what’s holding people back from doing anything. God has not given us a spirit of fear. Your community will respond.” Baldwin also emphasized a whole

community response. “Te love of Christ breaks down boundaries and the love of God crosses interreli- gious boundaries,” he said. “What I saw in Cedar Rapids was

a willingness for people to look past boundaries, stereotypes and labels and say that we are going to work together.” 

December 2015 37



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