by Laura Brix Newbury
A small forge in a church parking lot may seem like an unusual place to heal wounded hearts, but that’s what happened at an event hosted last spring by our congregation, Pilgrim Lutheran in Chicago.
Our church was one of the stops on a nationwide book tour for “Beating Guns: Hope for People Who Are Weary of Violence” by Shane Claiborne and Mike Martin.
We were weary. Between the local headlines that gave a daily murder count in our city and the national news of mass shootings, suicides, and accidental deaths, we began to feel like violence and hate might be winning.
After a particularly violent weekend in Chicago, we were ready for a glimmer of hope. To help us better understand the challenges we face, Shane and Mike shared information about gun violence trends and the spiritual aspects of fear and violence.
Let’s mark our calendars for the first Sunday in May when Women of the ELCA commemorates Rachel’s Day, a time of grieving, awareness-raising, and taking a stand against gun violence in our communities.
Stories of loss and recovery
Two women from the community—one who had survived a drive-by shooting and one whose brother had been killed by gunfire—gave human faces to the numbers. They shared their moving stories of loss and recovery.
Around the forge, we melted down a gun and hammered it into a gardening tool, echoing the words of the prophet Isaiah: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isaiah 2:4).
Everyone there who’d been personally affected by gun violence was invited to name the loved ones they’d lost and take a first swing of the hammer. We wrote down the hostilities in our hearts on slips of paper. These, too, went into the forge.
As evening settled into night, we prayed, sang, and rejoiced in a God who heals our wounded hearts. Our ritual of grief, lament, and letting go became a ceremony of commitment and hope.
A tool that gives life
The event was a beautiful experience, but will it change anything? It helps me to remember something Shane and Mike wrote—that when we ask God to move a mountain, God may respond by handing us a shovel.
Fortunately, God works through us as a community of believers. Experiences like our time at the forge can inspire and motivate us to put our faith into action.
We also don’t need to wait for someone else to come to town to ignite these feelings of solidarity and hope. Let’s mark our calendars for the first Sunday in May when Women of the ELCA commemorates Rachel’s Day, a time of grieving, awareness-raising, and taking a stand against gun violence in our communities.
While I learned a lot at the forge, perhaps the most powerful message was that only love can heal a heart filled with hatred and violence. As David told Goliath, “The battle is the Lord’s” (1 Samuel 17:47).
Our battle plan against gun violence must include the power of God’s love.
Laura Brix Newbury lives in Chicago with her husband, Chris, and works as a consultant in the international development field. This blog first ran as a Give Us This Day column in the October 2019 issue of Gather.