June is Gun Violence Awareness Month
June is Gun Violence Awareness Month
This month Laura Kigweba James, Organizing Program Coordinator at GBCS sat down with Rev. Michael Parker II, United Methodist Pastor in the Baltimore Washington Annual Conference to discuss the reality of gun violence in our communities and how people of faith are called to respond.
“They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” - Isaiah 61:4
Isaiah 61:4 is the scripture that grounds and sustains Rev. Micheal Parker II when he is called to minister to the devastating reality of gun violence that impacts his community and our nation.
On Tuesday evening May 4, 2021, 23-year-old Phajia Hutchinson’s life was taken by a random shooting at a BP gas station in Prince George’s County, Md. Phajia’s life and so many others have ended too soon because of an increase in gun violence and a lack of community accountability and gun reform.
In response to the loss of Phaija’s life and many others, faith and community leaders on Thursday, May 6 took to the streets to March for Peace.
The March began at a Trinidad Baptist church and ended at a local mall in Capitol Heights, Md.
This past week, I connected with Rev. Parker who attended the March and gave the Eulogy of Ms. Phajia Hutchinson, to discuss the church’s response to gun violence. Here are his reflections.
This interview has been edited and shortened for the article.
What was the purpose and intention for the March for Peace last month?
The intention behind the march was to call for peace in the midst of gun violence that is plaguing our nation, and Prince George’s County has had its fair share of homicides who have died at the hands of others.
I have had a personal experience with gun violence. I know what it is like to sit with the homicide detectives, with those from the state’s attorney’s office, and selecting a casket. The experience leaves families broken. You are never right and you are never whole. It’s one thing to contend with loss from the natural aspects, but it’s another to be forced to contend with it because someone has taken life away.
As people of faith, why are we called to take action on gun violence?
There is the Wesleyan notion of social holiness which is society’s responsibility to look like God and we distort that image everytime we pick up a gun.
We have an obligation as pastors, as modern day prophets, to stand in these “liminal places” and be a representation of the presence of God even when we aren’t speaking. When I put the collar on to go to marches, it is a reminder to me and the world that I represent God in this moment, and that this moment is bigger than me.
Where do you see the hope and the peace that you marched for?
I see hope in the faces of the children, who are constant reminders to me that there is still a future.
Clergy have not done all that we can do in our communities.
For a denomination that is as resourced as we are, I believe we can make a greater impact. This impact looks like collaborating with decision makers and rethinking how we spend our money as a church.
What would it look like for the church to buy the vacant properties in our communities? What would it look like to purchase some of the dilapidated homes around us and rebuild them, thus reinvesting in the communities we choose to worship? What would it look like if we did what the saints did after Peter preached that sermon in Acts 2 and actually brought our everything to table so that all had access to what was needed most?
The Biden Administration is working to bring resources to the table and as communities of faith, we must use our voices, resources, and time to end the crisis of gun violence in our communities and nationwide.
In March 2021, the Biden Administration announced $5 Billion Support for Community Violence Prevention and Intervention Strategies through the American Jobs Plan.
As United Methodists, we are called to realize God’s dream of Shalom in our communities. We can do this by addressing the epidemic of gun violence through community-led solutions, advocacy, and policy.
As Church and Society we have several resources to equip you this month and beyond as you advocate for gun violence awareness and prevention.
Continue to follow and support Rev. Parker and his congregation and their work to address gun violence here.