By Mennonite Church USA Staff with Michael Martin, director of RAWtools
We pray for the lives lost in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas, Dayton, Ohio and Chicago, Illinois, which join the climbing number of those lost to gun violence in America.
Comfort the mourning, the grieving, the broken-hearted.
Compel our prayers to turn into actions.
May the triggers of our streets be beaten into plowshares.
May the triggers of our hearts be met with the open arms of our neighbors.
May we trust in the transformative power of your refining fire.
Forge us to be instruments of your peace.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
May our posture be of a readiness to steady a plowshare.
May we take hold of your olive branch that plots for peace.
May the plowshare break the earth of senseless violence.
May the furrows bring us a harvest of solace, a never-ending rest from violence.
May we sit under the vine and fig, on earth as it is in heaven.
May it be so. Amen
—Adapted from a prayer by Mike Martin originally published in The Mennonite after a tragic shooting in Las Vegas.
Each year America loses nearly 40,000 lives to gun violence, about 110 per day, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The recent mass shootings in Gilroy, El Paso, Dayton and Chicago remind us again of this daily tragedy. Over 60 per day are lost to suicide, yet we rarely hear and see the trauma from these lives lost.
America is worse for all of these lives lost. The church in America is worse for these lives lost. Christians own guns at a higher rate than the rest of the country. The church must be a witness to another way forward. There is concrete action possible. There are legislative avenues to help us live together better.
We must also ask ourselves at which point we are no longer within reason to allow unfettered access to guns. We must admit we are past that point. But it is not beyond a return to a less violent place. We can work to make it better. We can pray to make it better. We must realize our prayers are lost if we do not also become a living prayer.
The church does not need to wait on legislation to make a difference. The prophets gave us a path forward. Isaiah and Micah wrote of a time when we would beat our swords into plowshares, our spears into pruning hooks; we would train for war no more, and we would sit under our own vine and fig tree, in fear of no other.
If the church is to be a part of this vision, it makes less and less sense for us to make more guns. We are in full knowledge of the devastation that gun violence causes and so it makes more and more sense for the church to take up the work of turning our weapons into plowshares. The trauma of gun violence has been held disproportionately by communities of color, women and indigenous people. As white nationalism fuels more gun violence, the church must be vocal and incarnate in its support for the lives of people of color and women.
We must trade in our tools of violence for tools of creation. The beauty of the call to turn our guns into garden tools is its impact on the triggers in our streets and the triggers in our hearts. It requires us to train for alternative ways of conflict mediation — both interpersonal and intrapersonal. It requires us to trade in illusions of the quick justice of the trigger for the patience and abundance that a plow provides a community. It requires our imagination to shift from individual survival to community survival.
The church conscientiously objects to gun violence and the affects it is having in our communities.
We can take prayerful action corporately in public, as well as in the silence of our home. We can take legislative action. We can become aware of the trauma of our neighborhood by becoming vulnerable to the pain of gun violence. We must lean into the groaning of family, friends and loved ones. We can take holy action and be a part of God’s vision for abundant life together.
Action items for churches to #Bringthepeace in response to gun violence
- Use “A Loaded Conversation: An Invitation to Talk About Guns,” the dialogue resource from Mennonite Central Committee U.S. and RAWtools.
- Become a part of the RAWtools Disarming network to help facilitate gun donations in your community.
- Donate your gun to be turned into a garden tool.
- Become aware of the legislation at your local, state and federal level and use your collective voice for change.
- Be aware of suicide prevention organizations in your area.
- Use Restorative Justice practices for conflict mediation.