Joining congregations across the country, mem bers of the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury and the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center gathered Friday to participate in an interfaith service addressing gun violence and peacemaking in light of the Sandy Hook tragedy.
The sabbath was announced by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of 700 mayors whose goal is to effectively enforce the second amendment. At the Hebrew Center, 50 people assembled to sing songs of peace, listen to religious texts and reflect on the opportunities faith communities have to harvest change.
“Just a few months ago, we were all horrified when we learned of the shooting at the temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin,” said the Rev. Cathlin Baker, minister of the congregational church. “So much violence in our world is related to religion and ignorance. When we come together in multi-faith settings like this, we are engaging in peacemaking. For we are humanizing and befriending, rather than separating. So let us consider this gathering tonight a powerful act of peacemaking.”
Victims from the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut and the movie theatre in Colorado were just a small fraction of the 30,000 people killed by firearms in the United States last year, Rabbi Caryn Broitman said, before asking the congregation to pause for a moment of silence.
Both Rabbi Broitman and Reverend Baker evoked images of peace with their selected texts.
Rabbi Broitman had the group question the reasoning behind the creation story, and how the rights of individuals must be balanced with the needs of a healthy community.
“Why was humanity created with one individual first?” she asked. “God could have created a bunch of people at once first. But from that person the whole human race comes. So God created one individual on purpose in order to teach us that if anyone causes one life to be lost, it’s as if they destroyed the whole world. Because that first individual was the whole world, no matter how many billions of people have come from that one individual.
“Likewise, anyone who saves a life, it’s as if they have saved an entire world.”
From the book of Isaiah, Reverend Baker spoke of predators living harmoniously with their prey, of men using words rather than weapons, and of children playing happily without threat.
She asked that the congregation keep these images in mind when faced with challenges and tragedies of violence.
“Peace and justice are not just something we come to know in the afterlife,” she said. “And we don’t just pray for peace and justice, we help bring it about. Even if it feels beyond reach, we cannot give up on it. We must work to make real this vision of peace and justice. The images remain a beacon, something very real in our hearts, although they are not manifested in our world.”