On the heels of two very eventful, historic and profoundly emotional days, EPF was up bright and early Sunday morning. More than a dozen EPF representatives joined approximately 1,000 bishops, priests, deacons and laypeople from across the country to march through downtown Salt Lake City calling for increased background checks on gun sales and other gun control measures. Several bishops and a priest took to a prepared stage at the beginning, middle, and end of the protest march to share their reasons for supporting gun reform.
Bishop Eugene Sutton of Maryland spoke of the rioting that has beset Baltimore in recent years and the murders of more than 300 people in that city every year. Bishop Scott Hayashi of Utah, the host of the convention, described being shot as a young man in a botched robbery & seeing the toll that the injury took on his father’s health. Connecticut’s Bishop Ian Douglas quoted studies on the impact of state background check laws, especially in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in his diocese. Two former police officers – the bishop of Oklahoma and a priest from Washington DC – spoke about responsible policing rather than deadly and often racist aggression.
EPF’s Young Adult Delegation and friends from the Episcopal Service Corps served as volunteers, sporting bright neon shirts, carrying banners, ensuring cleanliness and preventing litter, handing out service leaflets with the litany of prayers to be said, and performing other useful tasks.
The Episcopal Peace Fellowship even got some great press on the front page of the Salt Lake Tribune – one of the region’s largest newspapers. I had the honor of being interviewed about what brought me to the march – to which I said “I’m a 25-year-old black man from Baltimore. In some neighborhoods of my city, there’s so much gun violence that the life expectancy of a black male is about 25 years, so I’m a living testament.”
Indeed I’m a living testament to two things: (1)God’s Grace and (2) a loving community of people who have been willing and able to love, care for and protect me throughout my life. I will not stop fighting, and EPF and the Episcopal Church will not stop working until we eradicate the senseless gun violence that destroys the lives of young black men like me and God’s children of every kind.