An Episcopal church in Battle Creek, MI, has found a graphic way to bring home the toll of gun violence in America today.
Each week the Rev. Brian Coleman tapes photos of those who have died in mass shootings to the sanctuary walls. He said the church will continue to do so through the end of the year. To the pastor, it’s a form of accountability as the national debate on gun violence heightens. …
Coleman said he started the project after six people were killed and two others injured in a mass shooting in Kalamazoo in February. Some of those first few photos came from the victim’s friends, who attend St. Thomas.
By June, more than 200 pictures of individuals hung in the church, 49 of whom died after a gunman walked into Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. More recently, the photos of five police officers killed by a gunman in Dallas were also added to the wall. There are now three rows of photos around the sanctuary.
Coleman only posts photos from mass shootings, defined as incidents in which four or more people are killed.
The pastor said there is not enough space in the sanctuary to post the photos of all the people killed by gun violence this year.
“Where would we put 6,000 photographs? It would be like wallpaper,” Coleman said.
Reaction to the initiative has been mixed, but broadly positive.
“I stepped into the sanctuary initially, it felt like a place of death, which is not what our church is about,” said Mary Bourgeois, 57, on a recent Sunday. “But Father’s sermon today was about recognizing and reaching out to all of our neighbors and that was exactly what I needed to hear.” …
Amanda Chapel, 30, said she doesn’t see news alerts for shooting deaths unless they are brought to a national scale or happen in the Battle Creek area. She said the photos have made her more aware of the issue.
“It’s easy to fall into that saying of ‘It’s just one of those things,’” Chapel said. “But what Father Brian is trying to do is get people to see that it’s not just one of those things, it’s a modern-day crisis that needs to be addressed somehow.”
Coleman, Rector of St Thomas Episcopal Church in Battle Creek, tries to find out a little about the lives of each person whose photograph he posts. His aim is to honor their lives, and to continue to remind himself and his congregation to pray and to act for gun violence prevention and reform.
All quotes above are from the Battle Creek Enquirer. Read the whole story here.
Featured image: the faces of the dead line the walls of St Thomas Episcopal Church. Via St Thomas on Facebook