By Joyce Coronel
On the heels of its decision, alongside a majority of other United Methodist churches in the U.S. to protest a recent vote by the UMC’s General Conference to continue its ban on same-sex marriage and ordination, a Tempe congregation will soon host two anti-gun-violence activists.
Dayspring United Methodist’s Sunday, March 24, morning services will feature presentations by Shane Claiborne and Mike Martin whose “Beating Guns Tour” is in the midst of a multi-city run.
A 90-minute presentation takes place at the church at 2 p.m. as Claiborne, alongside Martin, a Mennonite pastor turned blacksmith, offer a Christian response to gun violence in America.
The afternoon presentation will feature music, art and stories of people impacted by gun violence, culminating with an invitation for the audience to take a hammer and transform a gun into a garden tool.
Inspired by the biblical prophets’ call to “beat swords into plowshares,” Claiborne and Martin, who use a forge and other blacksmithing tools in their presentation, are promoting their new book, “Beating Guns: Hope for People Who Are Weary of Violence.”
The Dayspring event coincides with the one-year anniversary of the “March for Our Lives” rally held in Washington, D.C., and around the country in the wake of the 2018 Parkland, Florida, school shooting that took the lives of 17 students and staff. Jeff Procter-Murphy, pastor of Dayspring, said his daughter’s childhood has been impacted by gun violence.
“My daughter Claire was a sixth-grader when the Sandy Hook shooting occurred—the deadliest elementary school shooting–and a high school junior when the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history took place at Parkland. Her middle and high school years have been framed–and marred– by horrific gun violence. [We have] a generation of students going to school in fear, with lockdowns commonplace across the land,” Procter-Murphy said.
The anti-gun-violence presentation at Dayspring offers a concrete response to the crisis.
“We have the audacity to believe that it is not the will of God for approximately 105 people to die from guns each day in the U.S.,” Claiborne and Martin say in a press release regarding their tour.
Claiborne and Martin’s presentation will address fear in America, corporate accountability, the number of guns in the U.S., “gun capitalists,” victims and the National Rifle Association.
Their book tour kicked off on March 9 in Philadelphia, stopping in more than 35 cities during the pre- Easter season of Lent.
Claiborne and Martin have also launched the Disarming Network to help people connect with safe spaces to disable guns according to Federal ATF guidelines.
Dayspring United Methodist Church, on Elliot Road in Tempe, has come to be known in the community as a progressive house of worship. From jazz communion services and having a local rabbi address the congregation, to an active welcoming of the LGBT community and celebration of Earth Day, Dayspring has sought to reach those who might not feel at home in more conservative churches.
Pastor Jeff Procter-Murphy’s blog describes progressive Christianity as, “An expression of the faith that embraces critical biblical scholarship and welcomes metaphorical readings of Scripture, allowing for fresh, relevant understandings of the text …This helps us understand how tribalism, slavery, the subjugation of women, and heterosexism are but cultural byproducts from a distant time and place that need to be put to rest once and for all.”