The Rev. Sandy Brown, Janey Smith (left), and Bonnie Walker are just a few of the United Methodists who joined with other local citizens in taking a stand during Stand Up Washington march.
Photos: “Stand Up Washington: A march to end gun violence”
We can stop gun violence | By Jesse N. Love
Seattle march unites local community leaders, interfaith communities to support victims and to end gun violence.
“This is the calm before the storm. We expect a several thousand people. We’re bringing awareness,” explains Ralph Fascitelli.
On a brisk Sunday afternoon, Fascitelli is speaking with a KOMO 4 cameraman atop a concrete stage in Seattle’s Westlake Park. Fascitelli is the President of the Board for Washington CeaseFire – a grassroots organization dedicated to reducing gun violence.
Several hundred people began filling the Park early to participate in Stand Up Washington – a march and rally for gun control and to remember victims of gun violence. The event was held on Jan. 13, 2013. Older adults, young adults, and children arrived to support a movement toward sensible gun control and overall peace.
Over the last few months in the US, several incidences involving shootings in school campuses – and in particular the Dec. 14 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. – have all brought the debate of gun control into the forefront of real world and online conversation. Stand Up Washington’s march was an opportunity for people to take a stand and have their voices heard, including United Methodists.
“There is just too much violence happening in our country; I’m just really against it,” shares Jacqueline Putt of First United Methodist Church in Seattle. “I’m out here to show some support for coming up with legislation and gun control,” she shares. Putt along with members of First Church wrote letters to the president and members of congress to support stricter gun control laws.
“I remember watching news coverage 17 years ago; I was teaching at Moses Lake and one of our teachers was killed at Frontier Middle School (Moses Lake, Wash.) along with two children,” says Janey Smith, a member of Des Moines UMC and a resident of Wesley Homes. Smith refers to the 1996 shooting of three people by then 14-year old student Barry Dale Loukaitis. Smith says she and her friends at Wesley have been in contact with the local Methodist Pastor Mel Kawakami in Connecticut. She hopes to visit and help summer camp programs with children and families.
Bonnie Walker is a member of Haller Lake UMC and Barbara Moreland is a member of First UMC, both in Seattle. Walker and Moreland heard about the march through their local church. “We were talking about it in our meetings at Haller Lake. We received word from the Church Council of Greater Seattle by e-mail. Since the march is in line with our beliefs, we wanted to be a part of it,” Walker explains. “The more noise we make – the more we can say we’ve had enough, the greater chance of being heard. As a participant, we just spread the word and people showed up for this. Probably at least 50 (United Methodists) are here,” Moreland shares.
The Rev. Sanford “Sandy” Brown is the pastor of First UMC in Seattle. “Churches need to lead the conversation about the relationship between gun ownership and Jesus’ teachings of non-violence. We have to be careful not to get stuck with the notion ‘because the Second Amendment supports gun ownership it must be right.’ That’s a culturally-driven idea, not a Jesus idea,” Brown shares. When asked how church communities can bridge the two opposing sides in the debate over gun control, he shares, “I think churches can invite the conversation inside our walls by hosting panel discussions and including people who disagree with the Christian stance. We can’t limit ourselves to conversation, though. We also need to stand up and support appropriate gun control legislation as a faithful response to the Gospel.”
At the end of the march, Brown presented a closing message saying “Yes we can” to safer schools, sensible gun laws, and overcoming a culture of darkness with the power of love and a path towards peace. Communities in Washington continue to work towards change surrounding the status quo of gun control in Washington.
Jesse N. Love serves as the print & publications manager for the PNWUMC.
The full version of this story will be featured in the February issue of Channels, coming soon.