Judy Allbee on Violence

It happened again. It involved a shooting at yet another high school, this time on the West coast. And again right here in Bristol there was a domestic violence incident that turned into a murder/suicide. I have been thinking and praying and pondering; worrying and fussing and fuming about violence. It started after the shootings in Newtown. I could not imagine sitting around and doing nothing. I could not imagine not caring enough to find a way to a better day. I cannot imagine that this is God's intention for us. And here we are, many months later, and I do not feel we have moved very far or far enough, neither as ABCCONN nor as individual churches.

Yes, we created a peace devotional which was used and appreciated by many. Yes, we created a policy statement and yes, we are working on developing the finer points of that policy statement in terms of the work that our departments are doing.

We should feel positive about this and I do, I really do - but it is not enough. It does not feel even close to being enough. Just a few weeks ago I read about those two girls who followed some fictional character and in that obsession stabbed another girl, their friend, 19 times. As my 6-year-old granddaughter says when she doesn't understand, "What the what what?!" I want to say that also because I just don't understand the rationale.

On a related note, I was shocked (some would say naive) to find out that after the shootings in Newtown, many states loosened their gun laws rather than strengthened them. Again - it makes no sense.

What are we to do? I have to say that talking about it is good. Over these last many months I have had numerous conversations about violence with people in our ABCCONN family. I have talked with Bill Mathis, who chairs the Department of Congregational Leadership and Renewal, asking the "what are we to do" question. I have spoken at length with Joyce Blandon, who chairs the Educational Ministries department, asking the same question. I have also spent time in conversation with Jim Meek, vice-chair of the Department of Christian Service and Witness, asking the same question.

This is what we are going to do. We are going to find a way to create an anti violence, non-violence, peacemaking tool kit. As you can see, we don't even have a title for it yet. We do not know exactly what it will include, but hopefully it will include resources for you and for your church. Some of these will be ones already done by other groups; some will be developed by our own departments. Those resources may be in the form of people or they may be written resources. (You have already seen articles in previous editions of this mailing about mental health issues. In this mailing is an article about bullying.) We know that violence pervades our society - elder abuse, child abuse, human trafficking, domestic violence, as well as gun violence, which is just the start of the list. Someone told me recently that Connecticut is listed as the angriest state in the union. It is time we American Baptists speak out and make our voices heard. We have many in our region who do speak a voice of clarity to the community, and I am so very grateful for your efforts. We need more. We need you.

There are many groups already organized in our state and we will be compiling a list of those groups that you might want to know more about. The peace devotional is on the ABCCONN website and can be used during any month. If your church has a booth at a community fair, I would encourage you to make copies of the devotional and hand it out with a note from your church. If you are concerned about child abuse, call the local service agency and ask for a speaker so that you may be better informed. If you are concerned about elder abuse, do the same. Invite a police officer to come and talk about what we can do to help those whom we think may be suffering from abuse.

We have the policy statement on violence. It is included in this mailing. I am asking that you put it up in plain sight in your church and offer to have conversations about what you and your congregation can do to speak to the issue. Offer Bible studies on peacemaking. Participate with other groups in walks and rallies and prayer vigils for peace. I know God hears us.

Jesus told us about peacemaking and his words recorded in Matthew's gospel are, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God." May it be so in our little part of the world. This will be my emphasis in the coming year. I hope it is yours as well. Your voice is important.

In service to Christ,

Judy Allbee

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