In an April 1, 2013, Easter letter to the diocese, Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE invites every congregation to be a bearer of peace, and to consider how each will join one or more emerging efforts of the B-PEACE for Jorge Campaign focusing on ending gun violence through: youth programs; support for parents and families; jobs for teens and young adults; partnerships with underresourced public schools; and gun reform advocacy.
The campaign is being developed through the Jorge Fuentes Antiviolence Task Force established by Diocesan Convention in November 2012.
Questions may be directed to Julia MacMahon, Jorge Fuentes Antiviolence Task Force organizer, at 214-790-9713 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The text of Bishop Shaw's Easter letter follows:
My Sisters and Brothers,
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
I am writing to all of you to invite you more deeply into the power God offers us through the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ that we celebrate in this Easter season. We desperately need the awareness of this power that is ours, right now and in the months to come, if we are to defeat the reality of violence in our country. All of us, I expect, have been profoundly touched by the random violence which is everywhere. We have been stunned by the mass killings in places like Wisconsin, Colorado, Arizona and, now, Connecticut. We have grieved deeply over the senseless murders of children and teenagers which are part of daily life in places like Chicago, Baltimore and every American city, including our own Boston, Lynn, Brockton and New Bedford.
From our recent spring retreat, the bishops of the Episcopal Church wrote: "Our time together has brought us to a new place of recognition with respect to how violence infects, and affects, our lives." The Easter victory assures that every one of us, every congregation in our diocese, if we work together, can make a difference over this sin and death.
Last September, you remember, violence struck at the heart of our diocesan community when 19-year-old Jorge Fuentes was murdered while walking his dog in the early evening outside his home in Dorchester. He was an exuberant, remarkable young man and a natural leader, adored by the children he mentored at St. Stephen's and St. Mary's in Boston and respected by his peers. Many of you knew him because he grew up and worked in the B-SAFE summer and B-READY afterschool programs and the Barbara C. Harris Camp of our church.
Because there was some urgency to get going after Jorge's death, I called together a small group to start working on a meaningful diocesan response that would get at some of the root causes of violence. Then, in November 2012, our Diocesan Convention, at my request, formalized that group and its charge by voting unanimously to create the Jorge Fuentes Antiviolence Task Force.
Many of our congregations participated during Lent in our diocesan book study of The Rich and the Rest of Us, and I know that many of you plan to take it up later in the year. It is one way we have started to educate ourselves and provoke conversation about what causes violence so that we can find ways to work together to do something about it.
The task force and its subcommittees have been meeting regularly since last fall, under the leadership of convener Liz Steinhauser and organizer Julia MacMahon of St. Stephen's Church in Boston. Research at the outset of the task force's work indicated several areas where our active participation as a diocesan community can make a real difference toward reducing violence: youth programs; support for parents and families; jobs for teens and young adults; partnerships with underresourced public schools; andgun reform advocacy.
The task force is now developing a wonderfully named B-PEACE for Jorge Campaign, endorsed by Diocesan Council in February, that will invite every congregation in our diocese to participate in one or more of these objectives. Please save Saturday, Sept. 28 on your calendars for our Fall Resource Day at Roxbury Community College when we will formally launch our B-PEACE for Jorge Campaign. The Rev. Kathleen Adams-Shepherd, Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown, Conn., will be with us to share her community's story, as will Urban Improv with some innovative presentations. There also will be workshops for adults and youth on a variety of responses to violence so that we will come away inspired and equipped to build peace in our congregations, schools, families and communities.
In the meantime, pray for our task force and our B-PEACE campaign, and consider how you and your congregation can get involved now:
* Join Episcopalians nationwide in calling for meaningful gun reform. Resources are available to help you call, write, e-mail and lobby your legislators, asking them to support laws that keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill and young people.
* Provide a job for a teenager this summer, helping to connect our young people to resources, networks and opportunities that make for safer communities. I will host a breakfast for business leaders on May 9 as part of a statewide collaborative effort we have joined to create more than 100 summer jobs throughout eastern Massachusetts.
* Walk with me in the Mother's Day Walk for Peace, benefiting the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, this Mother's Day, May 12; our contingent will share Eucharist together that day. Join and share word of similar events that may be happening in your communities. It is important to bring our presence to events that support a vision of peace and healing.
* Learn more and sign up for updates at www.diomass.org/b-peace.
The first gift the risen Christ in John's Gospel offers to his frightened disciples huddled in a room was God's peace. Those disciples of ancient times, like us, Jesus Christ's disciples now, were overwhelmed by the violence so prevalent in their society. Christ sends us out with the gift of peace, just as he sent out our ancestors in the faith. Pray with me that each of us, every congregation in our diocese, may be a bearer of peace in eastern Massachusetts and beyond.
The Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE