Following the MSU mass shooting, United Methodists are galvanized to take action and ask others to join them on Advocacy Day on March 22.
In the days following the Feb. 13 mass shooting on the campus of Michigan State University, United Methodists have surrounded students and families with care and concern, checking in on loved ones and providing space for vigils and honest conversation.
Classes have resumed, but the faculty are lenient and understanding if a student is not ready to return. According to Rev. Jim Magee, director of Wesley at MSU, students are at different places emotionally, and some are ready to get back to their studies. Others are not.
As the Lenten season begins, this tragedy reminds us of humanity’s fragile nature and our world’s brokenness. It moves people of deep Christian faith to prayer—to grieve for those lives lost, to ask God to be with the students still fighting for their lives in the hospital, and to comfort and strengthen all those who are still afraid to return to campus.
But it also moves people to do more.
Last Tuesday, less than twenty-four hours after the mass shooting, leaders from the Michigan Conference held a previously scheduled Lunch and Learn webinar to pray for those affected by gun violence but also to talk about ways United Methodists can go beyond prayers to action. People throughout the state took notice, including reporters from the Detroit Free Press.
The webinar gave details on how people of faith can encourage their elected officials here in Michigan to enact common-sense gun laws in their new term, which began Jan. 11. Many of these proposed changes are supported by a majority of Michigan residents.
One way to do this is to join other United Methodists in Lansing for the Michigan Conference’s first Advocacy Day on March 22, a day of prayer, public witness, and meetings with elected officials. Click the button below to register, so that there is time for event planners to make the necessary pre-registered appointments with state lawmakers.
Over 120 people have already registered for Advocacy Day. Motivated by recent events, United Methodists want to take action on gun violence prevention and are asking others to join them on March 22.
Rev. Scott Marsh, pastor of Coldwater UMC, is moved to build a better world for our children and plans to be in Lansing. As a young father, Marsh wants to do all he can to “end this scourge of gun violence.” He says, “If you believe we are called to make heaven here on earth, if you lament and weep over fallen children, show up. Join us at the Capitol. Let our empathy tip the scales, let our prayers move our feet, let our songs beckon forth a brighter future.”
According to Rev. Barry Petrucci, co-pastor of Portage: Chapel Hill UMC, participating in Advocacy Day is about visibility and making sure people of faith are heard. He is taking this step because “our legislators need to know that there are Christian perspectives that hold the safety of God’s beloved above any ‘right’ given by governmental decree.” It’s important to correct the silence and “let our representatives know how we feel.”
Rev. Jenaba Waggy, associate pastor at Ann Arbor: First UMC, has worked as a chaplain and has sat with many gunshot victims and watched some of them die. Ze has also counseled those who lost a loved one to suicide by gun. “The sheer destructive power of guns,” ze says, “is not something we can undo, but it is something we can regulate with mindfulness and deliberation.”
For Waggy, participating in Advocacy Day is a bold affirmation of life and a commitment to the love of neighbor: “The overwhelming numeric value of gun violence in our country pushes me as a person of resurrection faith that values life and life abundant to say enough is enough. I cannot claim that I love my neighbor if I am silent about their pain and death.”
Rev. Tim Woycik, pastor of Leland UMC, and his wife, Chris Schwind, have firsthand experience losing a loved one to gun violence. Their daughter, Holly, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2004. Their story has moved them to do more to help make changes to our gun laws that would better protect our children in schools (read more about their story here).
Pastor Tim and Chris have had opportunities in the past to speak to their representatives on both the state and national levels, but there has been minimal progress. Woycik believes that as people of faith, we need to step up our efforts. With the recent tragedy at MSU, he says, “perhaps now, there will be more state representatives who are ready to create common-sense laws that will aim to stop the violence against our students in particular.” As a United Methodist pastor, he feels a responsibility to stand in the gap and speak to the value of life.
The legislative tide may be turning here in Michigan. In the past few days, state legislators introduced a number of bills to enact several gun violence prevention laws, including universal background checks, safe storage requirements for gun purchases, and “red flag laws,” which would allow a judge to temporarily remove firearms from someone if the judge determines the person may be at risk for harming themselves or others with the firearm.
Advocacy Day will be held from 8 am to 3 pm at Central UMC in Lansing, across the street from the Michigan State Capitol. Click here to see the full schedule for the day.
To help prepare individuals for meeting with their elected officials, the Michigan Conference is providing three pre-event trainings on March 7, 13, and 21, all done virtually. Once you register for Advocacy Day, you will also be registered for the pre-event trainings automatically.
The first online training will be at 4 pm on Tuesday, March 7. The topic will be spiritual grounding and relational building. The training will be recorded so that it can be viewed later if it’s not possible to attend live.
How can individuals participate if they cannot come to Advocacy Day on Mar. 22? Rev. Waggy encourages people to make their voices heard in other ways. Ze suggests, “Ask your local church to do a letter-writing campaign and have the letters delivered on Advocacy Day, or have a draft email everyone can personalize and send to your local representatives.”
Waggy also recommends not keeping this quiet and limiting the participation to people in your church. “Mention [Advocacy Day] and the legislation to your friends; people don’t have to attend the same church as you to be able to write emails on things that so directly affect us all.”
Last Updated on October 31, 2023