(From the top left) Guest speakers Tripat Singh (Gurdwara Singh Sabha of Washington), Jackie O’Ryan (Faith Action Network), Claire Petersky (top-right, Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue) were just a few who presented messages for Call to Action and Prayers for Peace. The Rev. Meredeth Dodd (Bothell United Methodist Church) opens up about the moments when her child’s school was on lockdown during the Café Racer shooting in Seattle. To view more photos from this event, check out Channels on Facebook.
Taking steps toward ending gun violence | By Ellen Johanson
Ellen Johanson, manager for the Regional Media Center, takes part in a Candlelight Vigil and March through Seattle’s Capitol Hill Area along with interfaith clergy to call an end to gun violence. Guest speakers for the night offer their steps in taking action towards peace.
That’s the number of steps it took me to walk from St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral on Capitol Hill to St. James Roman Catholic Cathedral in downtown Seattle last Saturday. I was marching with hundreds of other people of faith in response to gun violence. As we watched our candles burn in the cold, misty evening, their light and warmth reminded us that we can each make a difference and collectively we can send a strong message for change.
“Each step in this walk marks the life of someone who has died of gun violence,” said the Right Rev. Greg Rickel, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. As somber and reflective as that thought is, the Vigil and March called people of faith to action and presented messages of solidarity. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, members of Faith Action Network (FAN) and of The Church Council of Greater Seattle participated in the planning and walk.
Michael Ramos, Executive Director of The Church Council of Greater Seattle, preached a powerfully stirring message saying we need to “unleash the power of our institutions” and “unite as one, stepping out of our comfort zones and crossing boundaries” to stop gun violence because “every child is a child of God”.
Ramos presented his “Stop, Pivot, and Walk” approach to ending this kind of violence. First, we stop and say, “Enough is enough.” Then, we pivot and recognize the voices of those who have experienced the pain of gun violence; their pain must be our pain. Then we talk and we walk together “for the tomorrow of our children is today.”
Jackie O’Ryan of Faith Action Network (FAN), presented four concrete steps that we can take to channel moral outrage and advocate for change. She encouraged everyone to:
- Go to the Faith Action Network website at www.fanwa.org and sign the “Stop Gun Violence” Petition.
- Support House Bill 1588 (HB 1588), which is one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation before our state legislature. It requires Universal Background Checks on all gun transfers in Washington State.
- Since HB1588 will be in the House Judiciary Committee Hearing this week (on February 13) it is crucial that people call and email the governor, your two representatives and your senator now to tell them to support HB 1588.
- Register for the free Interfaith Advocacy Day (IFAD) sponsored by FAN to be held in Olympia on February 20. Take a trip to Olympia, join workshops to become educated on issues, learn best practices for advocacy, meet with your legislators, and enjoy a free lunch courtesy of FAN.
I was pleased to see a United Methodist presence at the Candlelight Vigil. Both lay and clergy from a number of our churches in the Seattle District participated. Macy Ratliff from Bothell UMC, is a retired teacher who believes strongly in the importance of gun control. She has childhood memories of a family friend who was murdered–those memories along with her commitment to children–have forged her deeply heartfelt belief that “gun violence must be prevented and lives must be saved.”
The Rev. Kathleen Weber of Trinity UMC in Ballard believes “it is important for the faith community to be present and visible in the call for the reduction of gun violence both in Seattle and in our country. Wherever there is harm, wherever there is violence, wherever there is pain we are called to be present and to stand as a witness and to stand vigil with people.”
The Rev. Meredith Dodd of Bothell UMC believes our faith calls us to live life abundantly and gun violence is a huge obstacle to that for many people. “I was pastoring at The United Methodist Church in Green Lake when the Café Racer shooting happened last year and my child’s school was on lockdown. My children were ushered into the basement away from the windows because there was a gunman on the loose in the neighborhood and nobody had caught him…that pales in comparison to what a lot of folks go through every day, but just those few hours of not knowing whether my children would be shot is something that I won’t forget anytime soon.”
Dodd also identifies violence as both a political and a spiritual problem. She has just returned from Washington, D.C. where she met with her senators and congressional representatives regarding ways to curb gun violence. The United Methodist Church position includes a call for implementing universal background checks and banning assault weapons. Part of the way we live out our faith is to foster both personal and social holiness. Tonight her presence here is a statement of faith that compels her to take a stand so that abundant life is “available to all, not just to some.”
On taking a stand against gun violence, Michael Ramos stated “If not us, then who? If not here, then where? If not now, then when?” The Vigil and March brought together Seattle’s interfaith community and the people of the Capitol Hill together to share a vision of a more peaceful society. As marchers, strolled through Broadway Ave. they were welcomed by baristas taking photos, bar patrons giving hugs, and families applauding the slow wave of candles passing through the street. On this night, women, men, and children of many beliefs shared a common vision: to take a peaceful stand against gun violence in American culture.
This Vigil and March took place on February 9, 2013.
Special thanks to the Rev. Sandy Brown.
Ellen Johanson serves as the manager for the Regional Media Center.