“One should learn not to make off-the-cuff remarks on Facebook,” the Rev. Dr. C. Eric Funston, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio, told a gathering of clergy in the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio. “It only seems to create more to do.”
In late April, Funston had seen Everytown for Gun Safety’s announcement of Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 2 and the Wear Orange campaign to draw attention to it. He shared the post on his Facebook page and commented, “Perhaps I can find an orange stole to wear on the Sunday after.”
His colleague the Rev. Rosalind Hughes of Church of the Epiphany, Euclid, saw the remark and offered to make an orange stole for him, as well as any other clergy in the diocese who might be interested. Hughes wrote a blog post about the idea and shared it with the diocesan clergy. One thing led to another and by the time of the diocesan clergy conference in early May at least a dozen clergy had expressed an interest. Hughes went to work finding some hunters’ “safety orange” fabric and sewing the stoles; she had completed sixteen by the conference.
Meanwhile, Funston contacted Everytown for Gun Safety and its partner organization, [Episcopal] Bishops United Against Gun Violence, to inquire whether there would be interest in the idea beyond Ohio. He was assured by Travis Hirschbach, Everytown’s Political and Elections Coordinator, that there would be and, thus, Gun Violence Awareness or “Wear Orange” Sunday was born.
The Rev. Ms. Hughes wrote in her blog that the “orange stole is not a statement that I want you to see me. It is a plea and a penance and a proclamation: that we have something to say about this, we people of faith. That we have something to say to the violence of death and destruction. That we have seen, and noticed, and that we are not unchanged, unturned, unmoved, we who are alive.” The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, where Bishop Larry Provenzano is a member of Bishops United, posted recently, “Priests are encouraged to wear orange stoles at church on June 5,” citing Ms. Hughes’ essay.
Ms. Hughes brought twelve of the completed stoles to the diocesan clergy conference (four had already been given to clergy who couldn’t be there). Funston shared their story with the gathered priests and invited any who wished to participate to take one. A dozen clergy did so, committing to wear them as a witness to gun safety on June 5, 2016. The participating clergy are pictured in the accompanying photograph: (Back Row) Mary L. Staley of St. Paul’s, Put-in-Bay; Kay N. Ashby of St. Matthew’s, Ashland; Brian K. Wilbert of Christ Church, Oberlin; June Hardy Dorsey of St. Andrew’s, Elyria; Beth Frank of New Life, Uniontown; C. Eric Funston of St. Paul’s, Ohio; Sarah Shofstall of St. Barnabas, Bay Village; Gayle L. Catinella of St John’s, Youngstown; Rosalind Hughes of Epiphany, Euclid. (Front Row) Stephen Secaur of St. Bartholomew, Mayfield Village; Mary C. Carson of Redeemer, Lorain; Christopher McCann of St. Luke’s, Chardon; Rachel C. Kessler of Harcourt Parish, Gambier.
These clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio invite clergy everywhere to join them in making their congregations aware of the problem of gun violence in our society.
Bishops United Against Gun Violence is also supporting the “Wear Orange” movement above and beyond the orange stoles (though they are pushing Thursday June 2nd) and their website also has some good tips for promoting awareness, such as:
- share the social media links below on Facebook and Twitter several times before May 30
- encourage others to have their pictures taken in orange garb on June 2
- encourage people in your dioceses and churches to post those pictures on social media using TWO hashtags: #WearOrange and #Episcopal. (We will then share these photos more broadly from the Episcopalians Against Gun Violence Facebook page and The Cross Lobby Twitter stream.
- There is also a movement among some priests to wear orange stoles at church on June 5. You can read about that here, and if you decide to endorse that, please let us know.