“Beating Swords Into Plowshares: Ending the Violence of Guns and Child Poverty”
Saint Matthews United Methodist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, hosted a voluntary Gun Turn-In in cooperation with the Greensboro Police Department this past June. Other Methodist churches across the country have already done the same, often offering grocery store vouchers or gift-cards in exchange for the weapons. More such efforts to get deadly weapons off the street so they cannot harm children through homicide, suicide, or accident are part of the vision of the upcoming 2013 National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths celebration, “Beating Swords Into Plowshares: Ending the Violence of Guns and Child Poverty.”
Plan now to join thousands of Methodist churches, churches of other denominations, synagogues, mosques, temples and other faith communities across the country in the 22nd annual National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths the weekend of October 18-20, 2013, by holding special worship services, education programs, and advocacy activities to engage your congregation in faithful efforts to end gun violence and the violence of poverty so that all children may thrive. Among other activities, congregations are encouraged to plan “Turn In Guns, Turn Off Violence” events in which real guns are surrendered and toys, games, videos, and music that glorify guns and violence are also turned in.
With a title inspired by Micah 4:1-5, the 2013 Children’s Sabbath focuses on how we can end the gun violence that takes a child or teen’s life every 3 hours and 15 minutes and how we can equip all families with the tools for economic well-being so that more than 16 million children will no longer suffer the violence of poverty in our rich nation. Together, we will commit to realizing a vision in which all of our children and families know peace, security, and well-being.
Each Children’s Sabbath is unique, reflecting the concerns and commitments of its congregation and community, but together they are a strong, unified expression of the faith community’s commitment to nurture and protect all children. Big Bethel AME Church in Atlanta, Georgia, celebrated its seventh annual Children’s Sabbath in 2012, beginning with a Saturday forum comprised of professionals who addressed three key concerns: bullying, child sexual exploitation and trafficking, and gun violence. In publicity they wrote, “Partnering with the Interfaith Children's Movement, the Children's Defense Fund, school systems and government agencies, our goal is to get educated about these issues and explore ways for the faith community to get involved in nurturing, rescuing, supporting and enhancing the lives of all children. The forum begins with registration and continental breakfast at 8:30 a.m. Please share this information with local officials, organizations, educators, school counselors, social workers and community leaders. We believe that gaining information and understanding is key to mobilizing faith communities and healing families.” Their Children’s Sabbath culminated with two Children’s Sabbath worship services the following day.
As Dr. Luther E. Smith, Jr., Campaign Coordinator for the Pan-Methodist Campaign for Children in Poverty has observed, “Caring for children is a basic spiritual practice of the Methodist heritage. John Wesley insisted upon it; and our Methodist churches, at their most faithful times, have put their faith in action through the nurture of and advocacy for all children. Celebrating the Children's Sabbath is vital to naming and sustaining a congregation's activism as a response to God's call to love children.”
To assist communities with planning and implementing their Children's Sabbaths Celebration, CDF produces an annual National Observance of Children's Sabbaths Manual: A Multi-faith Resource for Year Round Child Advocacy. Though the National Observance of Children's Sabbaths Weekend is traditionally held the third weekend of October, the worship resources and prayers found in this year's Children's Sabbaths manual are intended for use throughout the year.
Marian Wright Edelman, in her letter of welcome for the Children’s Sabbath manual, shares: “In his 1959 Sermon on Gandhi, Dr. King wrote, ‘The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.’ My hope and prayer is that through the 22nd National Observance of Children’s Sabbath, as we help our places of worship, communities, and nation turn away from guns and mount a mighty movement against economic injustice, learning the ways of nonviolent protest to empower our families and children with the means to stand up together for economic and physical security and safety, we will move one step closer to becoming the beloved community.”
Rev. Shannon Daley-Harris, Religious Affairs Advisor, The Children’s Defense Fund