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Beyond Thoughts and Prayers:
A Pastoral and Prophetic Response to Gun Violence 2023-2024 Program Series

“Beyond Thoughts and Prayers” is a program-year series intended to move people from grief over gun violence through a healing awareness of God’s presence in the midst of that violence, to public prophetic witness and local action for justice. Additionally, the series hopes to make the Church visible to and present for those who may not usually enter our worship spaces.

All of the Central Richmond Region Episcopal churches are invited to take part, as well as Episcopal churches of other regions, churches of other denominations, and local justice organizations. 

The series consists of four events—two in the fall, and two in the spring. People can begin participating in the events at any time. If they miss the first event, they’re still welcome to attend others. And if they miss the fall events, they’re still  welcome in the spring.
The two fall events are pastoral and inward-looking in nature: 
A Service of Community Lament—Sunday November 5 at 5:30 @ St Thomas 
A Service of Community Healing—Sunday December 3 at 5:30 @ St Thomas 

A Service of Community Lament:
At this service, the community will share with God and each other their grief over gun violence, in the community’s own words. To help with this, multiple lament writing workshops will be offered in the evenings in October, on Zoom and in-person at St Thomas.  Two of the workshops will be set aside for youth.  The liturgy for the lament service will be developed with the help of the resources offered by Bishops United Against Gun Violence.

You can register for a lament writing workshop here.
A Service of Community Healing:
This will be the “Ministration to the Sick” service from the Book of Common Prayer (p.453). Holy communion will follow the laying on of hands and anointing with oil. In addition to acknowledging God’s healing presence in response to our laments, this service will acknowledge that the laying on of hands and anointing with oil are prophetic acts: Through them, we proclaim that gun violence has no place in God’s kingdom. 
The spring events, which are still being planned, are prophetic and outward-looking in nature: 
Carrying the Cross of Gun Violence—tentative date Saturday March 16 (During Lent)
A Call to Community Action—tentative date Sunday April 14 (During Eastertide)

Carrying the Cross of Gun Violence:
This event will begin with a public procession from the Museum District or the Fan to a local park, with participants carrying an eye-catching art piece called “the cross of gun violence,” which a local artist/activist has agreed to create.  The theme of the procession will be that God transforms the cross when we carry it.  A public service of Holy Eucharist will take place following the procession, in the park.  Monroe Park is the location in mind for the service, due to the spring 2023 shooting there.  
A Call to Community Action:
At this event, local activists and community leaders will share with people of faith specific actions they can take to curb gun violence here in Richmond.  By this point in the series, people will hopefully perceive how such actions are fueled by our baptismal vows to strive for justice and peace, and promote human dignity. The goal of this conversation is to send people forth with ideas for holy work they can do as individuals and as faith communities.

Please direct any questions to The Rev. Deacon R. Dale Smith:

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