September 9, 2016

Sing for Peace

The 67 members of Bishops United Against Gun Violence understand that lobbying legislators and writing letters to the editor are not everyone’s strong suit. But this fall they are joining an effort that makes it possible for Episcopalians to raise their voices—literally—on behalf of gun violence prevention by doing something that church folks do all the time: sing.

The Concert Across America on Sunday, September 25 is a series of musical events, large and small, dedicated to remembering victims of gun violence and “raising the volume on the national effort to save lives,” according to organizers at Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, which is one of the event’s sponsors.

Congregations can participate in numerous ways ranging from the relatively minimal—including a musical selection dedicated to the theme of peace in that day’s service—to the ambitious—planning a special musical performance with other congregations, including those of different faiths. And whatever activity a congregation plans, organizers are urging them to add their event to a national concert calendar using the “Add Your Concert” tab on Faiths United’s concert website.

Bishops United is a natural partner in this event. Since its founding in the wake of the horrific 2012 shootings at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Bishops United has held public liturgies inspired, in part, by the prayerful public processions known as CROSSwalk, first sponsored by All Saints Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Chicago in Holy Week, 2012.

In Holy Week, 2013, just three months after the shootings at Sandy Hook, more than 20 bishops led a gathering of several hundred people in an outdoor Stations of the Cross service that began in wintry conditions in the park across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House and ended outside the U. S. Capitol.

At General Convention last summer, the bishops led a prayerful early morning procession of some 1,500 people through the streets of Salt Lake City, chanting as they walked, stopping occasionally to pray and listen to reflections in an effort to “claim common ground against gun violence.”

Recently the bishops have begun gathering and creating liturgical resources for congregations interested in holding their own services to pray for an end to gun violence.

The group advocates for what it terms “common sense gun safety measures that enjoy the support of gun owners and non-gun owners alike” including handgun purchaser licensing, background checks on all gun purchasers, restrictions on gun ownership by domestic abusers and encouragement for the development of “smart gun” technology.

“If the movement to curtail gun violence and promote public safety is to succeed, we must call people of good will together under a common banner,” the bishops wrote in a mission statement adopted last year. “We must create experiences through which grief, fear, rage and despair can be transformed into patient and hopeful resolve.”

The group supports a Facebook page Episcopalians Against Gun Violence and a Twitter feed @TheCrossLobby.

Editor’s note: Some Episcopal dioceses are actively promoting participation, including the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon, and the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts among others. Find concerts in your area here and click on Participants. Hosting a concert? Add your concert here.

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