Reflections on December Sandy Hook Remembrance Event

On December 16, thanks to the leadership of Paula Hawthorn of St. Paul’s, Oakland, a Sandy Hook Remembrance was held at St. Paul’s. This event honored not only those who died at Sandy Hook five years ago, but also all others who have died from gun violence since then.  The program started with a liturgy at St. Paul’s, and I was privileged to be one of the leaders. Other leaders were the Rev. Mauricio Wilson of St. Paul’s, Michelle Edmond of S.A.V.E. (Soldiers Against Violence Everywhere), La’Ban Wade II of Youth ALIVE!, Oakland City Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, with a brief talk by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. 

This event was a true collaboration of churches and other community organizations.  Sponsors included Youth ALIVE!, Oakland Unite, Newtown Action Alliance, Moms Demand Action, the Brady Campaign, Soldiers Against Violence Everywhere, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, East Bay OFA (Organizing for Action), City of Oakland Human Services Department, True Vine Ministries, the Episcopal Diocese of California Commission on Peace, Justice, and Hunger, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, St. Paul’s (Oakland), Christ the Lord (Pinole), and St. Alban’s (Albany). 

During the service, my job was to pray for all those present who have been impacted directly by gun violence. I began by inviting those who had lost a loved one or friend to gun violence to stand. At first, people were afraid to stand, but then, slowly but surely, more and more people throughout the sanctuary stood. Then I asked people whose loved one or friend was a shooter to stand, acknowleding the pain they also feel, and more people stood. As we prayed for them, I was overwhelmed with their courage and with the communal grief and loss they represented. It was both beautiful and horrifying…a reminder of how important it is for all of us to work to end gun violence. Everyone present was invited to write a commitment sheet of how they plan to be involved in working to end gun violence.

After the service, we went upstairs for a service project to prepare care boxes for local families who have been impacted by gun violence. Representatives of the sponsor organizations working to end gun violence were there to help assemble the care boxes. I felt blessed that many of the Target gift cards for the service project were provided by members of my church (Christ the Lord, Pinole). I was thankful that one of my parishioners who stood during my prayer was able to be part of it, and I was grateful for so many different churches and organizations coming together to support one another in our work to end gun violence.