Dear friends,

Today is the observance of the 10th annual National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and the kick-off of Wear Orange Weekend. Last year during Trinity’s Wear Orange Sunday service, we had a community conversation about our hopes and fears about gun violence, and our ideas for addressing it (here is the harvest from that conversation). One of the ideas was to join with other local faith communities to address the epidemic of gun violence. The previous day, I had marched in the Old West End Festival parade with Moms Demand Action and met Mike Linehan, a parishioner from Olivet Lutheran Church. Mike and I had a brief conversation about how our two faith communities were wrestling with the issue of gun violence, and exchanged contact information. Later in June, we began to work together on what is now unofficially called the Multifaith Coalition to Reduce Gun Violence. I say unofficially because that name is often confused with the long-established Multifaith Council of Northwest Ohio (a group that promotes interfaith cooperation), so we are exploring how to “brand” our infant group. In the last year, we have held four public forums which have each been attended by between 60-80 people. Trinity graciously hosted the October 8 forum. Topics have included survivor testimonies, legislative advocacy training, safe gun storage, and updates on the City of Toledo’s new Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE), which has been working with the community since last summer to develop a five-year plan to reduce gun violence. Prayer has been included in each forum. Over 200 people from 41 northwest Ohio congregations representing many faith traditions have participated in at least one forum, including an impressive 39 Trinity parishioners. Thank you for your commitment to help reduce gun violence!

I have learned a lot about gun violence in the past year. I have participated in countless meetings, training sessions, educational programs and advocacy efforts. I have met many people who are working to prevent gun violence in northwest Ohio, some of whom are now friends. The biggest thing that I have learned this year is that survivors are the leaders of the movement to reduce gun violence. They need and deserve our support. They welcome us to walk with them as allies. I have participated in the Victims and Survivors working group of the MONSE Community Action Table, one of eight groups that are making recommendations to be included in the City’s five-year plan. The MONSE process has been victim and survivor-centered. The voices that have been amplified are those closest to the issue. One of the recommendations of our working group is to create a Compassion and Healing Fund for Gun Violence Victims and Survivors, to provide immediate financial support after the unfathomable loss of a loved one from gun violence. I provided testimony to urge approval of the Fund by Toledo City Council, which was scheduled to vote on it at their June 5 City Council meeting. I’ll let you know on Sunday if it was approved!

This Sunday, we will raise up the voices of the bruised and broken, strong and resilient survivors that are leading the movement to prevent gun violence. Parishioner and survivor Gwen La Croix will share her personal story, and I will preach. We will focus on secure gun storage, which saves kids’ lives. Free gun locks and a free gun lock box will be available for anyone who wants them. Here are many resources to explore for more information on how to reduce gun violence–organizations, safe gun storage, gun sense legislation, books and more. Please email me if you’d like to receive email updates from the Multifaith Coalition to Reduce Gun Violence. See you Sunday with your orange on!

Deacon Meribah

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