Episcopalians prepare to rally against gun violence at March for Our Lives events across U.S.

By David Paulsen
Posted Mar 21, 2018
All Saints youth group

Representatives from Day One, a nonprofit youth empowerment group, meet with youth group members at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, for a training in political advocacy and lobbying. The youth group members will travel to Washington, D.C., this week for the March for Our Lives on March 24. Photo: Juliana Serrano/All Saints, Pasadena

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians and Episcopal leaders from across the U.S. are traveling to Washington, D.C., this week for the March for Our Lives on March 24, while others plan to attend corresponding local rallies centered on a shared message: Something must be done to stop gun violence, especially against young people.

Episcopalians attending the Washington march or marches in other cities are encouraged to use the hashtags #MarchEpiscopal and #episcopal when posting to social media from the events, and follow the updates here on Episcopal News Service.

Preparations are well underway. In Chicago, a group of young Episcopalians spent their evening March 20 creating the signs they will take with them to the march in Washington. Members of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, will rise early March 22 to send off a youth group flying to Washington. And in Upper Montclair, New Jersey, church leaders are putting the final touches on a temporary memorial to the victims of two deadly school shootings.

“This is not politics. This is gospel,” the Rev. Melissa Hall, rector at Montclair’s Church of St. James, said. “We just love our children and want to keep them safe.”

St. James’ memorial features T-shirts draped over poles in front of the church. On one side of the churchyard are 17 shirts, one for each of the students and adults killed Feb. 14 in the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that sparked the youth-driven movement behind March for Our Lives. On the other side of the churchyard, 26 more shirts memorialize the young children and educators shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.

Hall and the Rev. Audrey Hasselbrook, assistant rector at St. James, came up with the idea for the memorial in the days after the Parkland massacre as they were asking themselves what they could do about gun violence. “We kind of put our heads in our hands and said, how many more times can we preach about this?” Hall said.

In addition to the memorial, St. James will host an evening service and candlelight vigil at 5 p.m. March 24. Although it is separate from the marches planned around the country, the church will show solidarity with the cause by singing hymns, joining in prayer and tolling its bell for the victims of gun violence.

Episcopalians in numerous dioceses have organized bus trips to Washington, D.C., to attend the main March for Our Lives. Diocese of Newark Bishop Mark Beckwith, who will join a six-bus convoy organized by the Lutheran Episcopal Advocacy Ministry of New Jersey, lamented “the scourge of gun violence” in a blog post March 21.

“I am going to Washington this Saturday in part to follow the passion of young people, but more than that, and deeper than that, I am going to follow Jesus – who, with his unwavering commitment to nonviolence, regularly stepped into the crucibles of power that condoned, if not fostered, violence,” Beckwith said.

Beckwith, one of the convening Episcopal bishops in the group Bishops United Against Gun Violence, noted “a groundswell of support” for gun reforms, such as raising the legal age to buy guns, expanding background checks for gun purchases and banning certain assault-style weapons. He also heralded the “eloquence and outrage” of students from Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the wake of the deadly attack at their school.

He invoked the Palm Sunday story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as a model for challenging the power structures that perpetuate injustice.

“His witness endures, and I believe we are meant to draw on his example and follow him, nonviolently, into this evolving cultural chasm,” Beckwith said. “And not give up, and not be stopped.”

Beckwith and many other Episcopalians making the journey to Washington plan to attend an interfaith vigil March 23 at Washington National Cathedral. The Diocese of Washington is helping to arrange accommodations for some of those coming from out of town, and the diocese also is coordinating its members to march as a group down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol during the March for Our Lives.

“We are not alone in this work,” Washington Bishop Mariann Budde said in a February blog post about the march. “The country’s conscience has been awakened and people from all sectors, many faiths, and every point on the political spectrum are responding.”

Episcopal teenagers are among the wave of young people who have spoken out against gun violence and helped organized demonstrations in response to the Parkland shooting, and they will be at the forefront of the upcoming marches.

The Episcopal formation group Forma has assembled a guide for bringing young people to protests or marches like the ones scheduled for March 24. The Episcopal Church also provides general guidelines for traveling with youth.

All Saints in Pasadena is sending 10 youth group members along with its youth director, Jeremy Langill, and its rector, the Rev. Mike Kinman, to Washington for the march. The trip was made possible by donations from members and friends of the congregation, said the Rev. Susan Russell, senior associate rector for communication at All Saints.

They also will meet March 23 on Capitol Hill with staff members of Rep. Judy Chu, a California Democrat that represents Pasadena. Other youth group members who will remain in California plan to meet with Chu herself at her district office on the same day.

Day One, a nonprofit youth empowerment group, met with the youth group this month to train them on lobbying lawmakers while explaining what to expect during the meetings, Russell said.

“We are working with our youth to equip them to amplify their voices as part of the March for Our Lives,” Russell said.

At All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Chicago, some of the young people who will travel to Washington, D.C., gathered March 20 to make anti-violence signs. All Saints’ is partnering with four other Episcopal congregations in the diocese to rent two buses for the trip. About 110 people will leave Friday evening, march on Saturday and be back home in time for Palm Sunday worship, said the Rev. Bonnie Perry, rector at All Saints’.

“This is like Jesus going to the capital. That’s why I really wanted us to go to D.C.,” Perry said, echoing Beckwith’s biblical Palm Sunday reference. “This is a pilgrimage. It’s a spiritual pilgrimage, it’s a Lenten discipline. This is what we’re called to do.”

Traveling to the nation’s capital isn’t the only way to participate. Chicago Bishop Jeffrey Lee issued a call to his diocese to get involved, if not by joining the march in Washington then by marching with him in Chicago or being with marchers in spirit.

“Wherever you are, please pray that God will console, sustain and heal all whose lives are touched by gun violence, and that God will make evident the work that we are being called to do to end this scourge,” Lee said.

That and other Episcopal-led efforts on March 24 are included in a list compiled by Bishops United Against Gun Violence. Here are some other highlights:

Bishop Daniel Gutierrez of the Diocese of Pennsylvania invites those who are marching to come for a blessing March 23 at a service at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia in honor of Oscar Romero, a Salvadoran archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church who fought social and economic injustice until he was assassinated while saying Mass on March 24, 1980. Episcopalians from the diocese are planning to attend marches in Philadelphia and Washington.

The bishops of the Diocese of Virginia said in a March 21 statement that they “choose to spend Saturday with young people and others from our congregations and communities to say no to gun violence. We join with responsible gun owners and with others who have a wide variety of views toward guns. We speak not against responsible gun ownership, but against an idolatry of guns that has caused devastating ruin and destruction within our borders. We invite the people of this diocese to join in saying no to violence and yes to life.” Diocesan Bishop Shannon Johnston will march in Richmond, Bishop Suffragan Susan Goff will be in the march in Charlottesville and assisting Bishops Bob Ihloff and Ted Gulick will take part in the Washington, D.C. events.

The Diocese of Indianapolis and Christ Church Cathedral are sponsoring a bus trip to the march in Washington, though Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows will rally with Episcopalians at the March for Our Lives event in Indianapolis. Bishop Douglas Sparks of the Diocese of Northern Indiana also will lead a group of Episcopalians to the Indianapolis march.

Other bishops are inviting Episcopalians in their diocese to join them at local marches. Diocese of Rochester Bishop Prince Singh plans to attend the march in Rochester, New York, while Diocese of Northern California Bishop Barry Beisner will participate in the march in Sacramento. South Carolina Bishop Provisional Skip Adams is scheduled to be at the march in North Charleston, and Diocese of Western Massachusetts Bishop Douglas Fisher will attend the march in Northampton.

The Episcopal cathedral in Boston is being converted into a sort of hospitality and training center for marchers in that city. The Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston plans to serve as a gathering place for participants in the city’s March for Our Lives beginning at 10 a.m. The gathering will offer youth-led trainings and other organizing activities before the group leaves for the march at the end of the morning.

The Diocese of Connecticut is holding a morning event, Equipping and Empowering God’s Women: A Way Forward, in recognition of International Women’s Day. When the event at the cathedral in Hartford concludes at 12:30 p.m., participants are invited to join a procession to the state capitol for Hartford’s March for Our Lives event.

Diocese of Central New York Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe plans to attend a March for Our Lives rally in Syracuse. She discussed Christian responses to gun violence in a Facebook Live video on March 20.

“Our faith calls us to stand and protect our children, the most vulnerable among us. Jesus tells us, ‘Let the child come unto me,’ that children would be safe and protected. So how do we do that? How do we understand that?” Duncan-Probe said. “It’s time to listen and to be vulnerable, to listen and to be led by our children.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.


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Comments (25)

  1. Randy Marks says:

    If you are coming from the east of the march: my church, St Mark’s Episcopal, is very committed to ending gun violence and we will be opening our Parish Hall on Saturday morning for rest, refreshment, and as a meeting point, beginning around 9AM. We are at 3rd and A Streets, SE (put 301 A Street, SE, DC 20003 into your maps app). Closest metros are Capitol South and Union Station. The nearest entrances to the march are at 7th Street, NW, midway down the route.

  2. william dailey says:

    The indoctrination received by these young people has nothing to do with ending gun violence. There are productive programs to stop gun violence and none of them are promoted by the church. America needs more responsible leadership than the church is providing on this issue.

  3. PJ Cabbiness says:

    This is politics and clearly not the Gospel as stated erroneously in the article. It pains me to see the left manipulating our youth in this manner without objection from our ordained leaders. Violence is the product of a corrupt, damaged or deranged human mind. An inert instrumentality has nothing to do with the will and action required to engage in an evil act. No additional law or administrative measure will have any meaningful impact on reducing “gun” violence. Men and women with evil intent will continue to commit these horrific acts regardless of the best intentions of those who follow the line of thinking presented in the article. The only effect of more stringent gun control measures will be to reduce the ability of law abiding citizens to defend themselves and their property from the criminal acts of those with evil intent or deranged minds. Ultimately, if the course of action proposed here is pursued to its logical conclusion, there will be no ready means of defense against the anti-constitutional, Marxist forces whose true desire is for power and control. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  4. PJ Cabbiness says:

    The article also stated that St. Stephen’s in Philadelphia was going to conduct a service in honor of Oscar Romero, the Marxist “martyr” from El Salvador who is revered by the left in the same manner as Karl Marx and Che Guevara. If one would like to see an example of the utopia promised by the ideology of these men, one needs only to take a look at modern day Venezuela where guns are confiscated from law abiding citizens but freely given to the murderous militiamen who enforce the will of the regime.

  5. The Rev. Dr. John Day says:

    The Gospel is about politics and to claim it isn’t shows a lack of understanding of Jesus of Nazareth. Taking political action is perfectly in line with the Gospel and I applaud especially the young people who keep this issue alive. I do agree that the planning of a mass shooting takes a very troubled mind but I hasten to point out that a troubled mind with a military assault weapon is capable of far more bloodshed than with a hand gun or firearm used for sport. If Americans need military style weapons to defend themselves and their property, what does that say about life in America?

  6. Robert Schreiber says:

    Please focus on the real cause of gun violence. Nobody in their right mind would murder students in a school, therefore they must be mentally unstable. What is different now from the 50’s and 60’s when I grew up and there was not this problem. Guns were actually easier to get then for all ages. Focusing on guns will not solve the problem if you do not investigate the root cause – mental health.

  7. Donald Heacock says:

    The Episcopal Church is the left wing at prayer, if they pray. I think the.Episcopal Church status revoked because they are only interested in politics . I would like to see how many Episcopal Priests believe in God. The laity would be shocked. If you are feed up with this Church look for a congregation in communion with an over seas Diocese & stop supporting these secular fronts for a Church

  8. Donald Heacock says:

    The Episcopal Church is left wing prayer, if they pray. The IRS should revoke their tax status .Thy front front for a church . Stop supporting this political front

  9. Larry Waters says:

    I agree with the comments of Mr. Dailey and PJ Cabbiness. And to Rev. Dr. Day, what is a “military assault weapon”? Please give me a definition. A .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol, can reek much damage in the hands of an evil/troubled mind person. Let’s ban cars/trucks as these inanimate objects cause death daily! Dr. Day asks a great question in his last sentence; perhaps the decaying morals, violence and ethics of our populous is why many folks feel the need to carry “military style weapons” in America. As I have said previously, the reason that many law abiding people have AK-47 style weapons is to protect themselves/family when the U.S. government decides to confiscate guns. Let’s concentrate on security for the schools, recognizing people who need help [bullied,depressed,demoralized etc.] and strengthening our family values through religion.

  10. Jim Newman says:

    This is so very sad. The Church has become the enabler for every liberal progressive suggestion thrown its way. Facts do not matter only the fervent need to be viewed as being so liberal in view as to be socialist. I give you the example of St Paul’s Memorial Church in Charlottesville (VA) who went as far as training the liberal left on church property in tactics of violence in the days before August 12 which resulted in violence andvthe death of an innocent woman on that day.
    Nothing proposed has been proven effective against gun violence. Nothing suggested will stop people from being killed. This would be silly if it was not so tragic.

  11. mike geibel says:

    Dear Rev. Dr. John Day:
    I often hear clergy proclaim that Jesus was political, and I am sure you know Jesus of Nazareth better than I do, and certainly you are much better versed in the Bible than I am. But I missed that part of the New Testament where Jesus led marches or exhorted the people to rise up in protest against the Roman rulers.

    Growing up in the Episcopal Church in the 1960’s, I was taught that Jesus spoke to the individual, never to government or government policy, and he preached that reaching God’s Kingdom was based upon humility, mutual respect and personal responsibility and not by political action or reliance upon the government. By teaching how we should live our lives and by setting an example, Christ profoundly changed the world without protest marches, slogans, or boycotts.

    I agree that the proliferation of assault rifles and the unraveling of values in a time of rising secularism requires reconsideration of controls on the availability of high capacity semi-automatic firearms, and one way of influencing change can be peaceful protest. But I would never presume or claim that my politics are God’s politics.

    I must confess that I flinch when people say that “the Gospel is about politics” or proclaim that to be a good Christian, you must support certain political causes. I do not go to Church to be told who or what laws I should vote for, nor will I stay long in the pew if the Rector starts advocating some political protest march.

    In April 2016, the TEC was one of 99 faith groups that sent a letter to congressional leaders opposing Trump’s campaign promise to weaken the prohibition against churches endorsing political candidates. In the TEC’s own words:

    “People of faith do not want partisan political fights infiltrating their houses of worship. . . . Houses of worship are spaces for members of religious communities to come together, not be divided along political lines; faith ought to be a source of connection and community, not division and discord.”

  12. M. J. Wise says:

    Rev. Dr. Day,

    ” that a troubled mind with a military assault weapon is capable of far more bloodshed than with a hand gun or firearm used for sport”

    You may be more of an expert on Jesus, but you are certainly not a firearms expert. The Virginia Tech shooting was done with two handguns, one of which was limited to 10 round magazines and was in the class of the weakest, lowest-energy cartridges available for firearms. There is no class of firearms you can ban to prevent casualties from mass shootings.

    As for the rest of this post:

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.” – C.S. Lewis

  13. Phyllis Mundy says:

    I’m proud to belong to a church that not only preaches the Gospel but lives it. Thank you to those who will march and make the voice of reason heard. Thank you to those Bishops and other Church leaders who are speaking out for us.

  14. A gentle reminder: in this day and age, comments posted on websites about controversial topics, including the topic of gun safety laws, may simply be bots (mass programmed replies), or individuals paid to reply (or, at least organized to reply) by well-funded non-profits, corporations, or even foreign powers intent on sowing divisiveness in our country.

    It’s probably best to ignore divisive online comments, and focus on reconciliation with friends, loved ones, and people in your community with different views via one-on-one encounters (and, if at all possible, face-to-face meetings where presence and compassionate listening are possible).

  15. M. J. Wise says:

    Another gentle remider: Once again, Cynthia Cravens slings accusations at whomever posts something she disagrees with, despite having zero evidence that anyone here is a bot or paid to reply. Maybe some people of good will just disagree with you, Cynthia.

  16. Ron Monterosso says:

    Does our church know who they are supporting? The MOL Foundation itself is incorporated in Delaware where most big “for profit” corporations incorporate because it has an almost total absence of corporate regulation and oversight. MOL was set up as a 501(c) (4) foundation which means it can accept tax deductible grants from large foundations but NOT from individuals and, more importantly, it does NOT have to publicly disclose its donors or organizers. However, several organizations such as Planned Parenthood, Move On.Org, the Women’s March for LA, and Everytown For Gun Safety have emerged from the shadows of the 501(c) (4) cover to publicly announce that they are participating in the organization, strategy, training and planning of the MOL marches. The permit for the main march in Washington DC issued to the director of the Women’s March for LA personally and not to anyone in the MOL Foundation. Worse yet Planned Parenthood will be “teaching and training” students who participate in MOL all across the US how to become “young activists” –not just for this march but for other causes (which would logically include the support of abortion). These organizations are using this tragedy to hijack and train young people to become propagandists for causes the goals of which these young people are not fully aware –thereby making them what Stalin referred to as “useful idiots”. And our church is actively helping these organizations to brainwash these young people !

  17. Margo Malakoff says:

    I was taught that Christianity is about love. I am not seeing a lot of love in the comments of those condemning people whose faith call them to march against violence.

  18. Larry Waters says:

    Ms. Malakoff, I too am against violence. My concern is that many people are marching against an inanimate object: guns- how stupid is that. Let’s march against cars and trucks too as they kill people. The problem is that the evil/misguided/crooks/depressed/ violent/outlaws whatever, don’t care about marches etc. The marching folks expect that the folks they are marching against will reciprocate and stop being evil etc. As Mr. Monterosso said, these marching folks are useful idiots. I wish that I could get you to understand my point. Since I cannot, I leave you with this: if guns are ever outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

  19. The Reverend Canon Susan Russell says:

    I am, as noted in the article above, a fulsome supporter of the youth galvanizing and leading this March For Our Lives and the on going effort to enact sensible gun laws. I can argue that the foundation of that support is being a follower of the One who loved us enough to become one of us not only to give us life but life abundant … and that — for me — is life healed of the scourge of gun violence. Your mileage may vary.

    But … for the record … the Episcopal Church has a decades-long commitment to challenging the culture that embodies the Myth of Redemptive Violence in its idolatry of guns and enablement of the for-profit driven gun lobby. Multiple General Conventions have adopted resolutions calling for the reforms we march for on March 24. You may disagree with those positions but they are inarguably ones that our church has taken through our historic polity process and the youth who lead us in the ongoing work of transforming the world into the kingdom God would have it be rather than the mess we have let it become are in alignment with both core Gospel values and long standing Episcopal policy.

  20. Bruce Babcock says:

    From today’s Boston Globe. “If all states were to lower their gun death rates to that of Massachusetts, more than 27,000 American lives could be saved annually. The best way to make that happen? Seven common-sense laws, all of which are consistent with the Second Amendment, and all of which have been shown to work.”

    I am so proud of these kids. I would say that the Parkland kids who survived the massacre of their teachers and fellow students are “fully aware” of what they are speaking out about in a way that the rest of us will never be. BTW, cars and trucks aren’t designed to kill people, yet we have taken steps over many decades to make them safer. Bank robberies still occur but banks still lock their vaults and their doors, and arm their alarm systems. If you live in Alabama and own 10 legally acquired guns, how are your rights violated when a man with a restraning order against him is prevented from buying a gun in California?

    “The marching folks expect that the folks they are marching against will reciprocate and stop being evil etc.” Really? That’s your takeaway? The hope of all of us marching on Saturday is that Americans will, in future, elect candidates who are not owned by the NRA, and sensible laws will follow.

  21. Donald Heacock says:

    I am so glad you picked the 24. The Congress left for 2 weeks of Easter vacation! The President will be at Mar Lago. Enjoy the.empty cit

  22. A repeat of the gentle reminder: in this day and age, comments posted on websites about controversial topics, including the topic of gun safety laws, may simply be bots (mass programmed replies), or individuals paid to reply (or, at least organized to reply) by well-funded non-profits, corporations, or even foreign powers intent on sowing divisiveness in our country.

    It’s probably best to ignore divisive online comments, and focus on reconciliation with friends, loved ones, and people in your community with different views via one-on-one encounters (and, if at all possible, face-to-face meetings where presence and compassionate listening are possible).

  23. As of January 1, 2018, over 3,000 Americans have been killed by gun violence, and over 5,500 Americans have been wounded by gun violence (http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/).

    Enough Americans have been adversely affected — killed, injured, losing fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and living in fear by the ubiquity of guns in their environments…enough is enough!

    So proud of American young people around the country participating in “March for Our Lives” events, organizing, and registering to vote, all fueled by anger and despair over politicians’ apathy in the face of horrific gun violence, our national disgrace.

    As someone with family members who have been injured or killed by gun violence, I am SO proud of the Episcopal Church, my church, for being such a strong supporter of the “March for our Lives” movement.

    1. Donald Heacock says:

      The majority of these deaths are suicide by white males. This is why the gun debate is so disingenuous . ECUSA Leadership
      .knows . It sadly points to who they care about

  24. Larry Waters says:

    Mr. Babcock did not mention my name, but he quoted several lines from a posting that I had made. No doubt Mr. Babcock and I could continue our verbal jousting about guns and whether cars/trucks kill people. Perhaps more constructively all the folks who are posting might focus on security at schools. As I mentioned in a previous post, my grammar school was locked during the day and the only way to access classrooms was to go to the principal’s office and get a pass. And the principal’s office was also locked. Since the Columbine horror, I am astounded that many schools seem to have very little security; and that absence of security is adults’ fault. I am hopeful that the March will open the eyes of folks who have the authority to make the security changes at schools.

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