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Interfaith prayer vigil on Promenade will call for end to gun violence

Clergy Call for ‘Prayer to be Put into Action’

June 17, 2016 By Francesca Norsen Tate Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Pictured is one of the many prayer vigils on the Promenade that the Brooklyn Heights Clergy Association has led in recent years. This gathering is from a 2014 September 11 commemoration. Left to right: Monsignor James Root; Fr. Joseph Hugo and Dr. Ahmad Jaber and Imam Abdallah Allam, both representing the Dawood Mosque on State Street. Brooklyn Eagle File Photo by Francesca N. Tate
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The Brooklyn Heights Clergy Association will hold a Brooklyn Interfaith Prayer Vigil for an End to Gun Violence on Monday, June 20, in response to the Orlando massacre.

The local interfaith community is invited to participate in this gathering which will express sorrow for, and solidarity with, the LGBTQ, Latino and Muslim communities—all of which have also been recent targets of hate.

“We will be calling for a meaningful and compassionate public policy response: a ban on assault weapons,” wrote Rabbi Seth Wax in an announcement to Congregation Mount Sinai on Thursday, June 16.

The prayer vigil takes place just three days after the first anniversary of the mass shooting at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

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Immediately after the June 12 Orlando shooting, the local clergy started keeping in touch with each other via email. They devoted a large part of last Wednesday’s monthly clergy association meeting to address how they might “respond to the tragedy in solidarity with the victims and their families,” Wax later told the Brooklyn Eagle by phone.

“We are thinking about how we can respect with prayer, but also respect with some action,” said Wax. “It’s a complicated case because there are so many layers. There’s the LGBTQ angle, the mental health angle, the Muslim/ Islamophobia angle, the reaction to the gun ban law. It’s hard, because you want to have an event that really is focused on all of these areas, and we’re trying to do that,” Wax concluded.

The prayer vigil begins tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Montague St. entrance to the Promenade.

Meanwhile, the faith leaders have sent pastoral letters and messages to their respective congregations on this and other recent violent tragedies.

The Rev. Dr. Brett Younger, the new senior minister at Plymouth Church, wrote in the Plymouth Blog that effective prayer must include action. An excerpt of his remarks is printed below, with his permission.

“We have way too much evidence that prayer does not work the way we wish prayer would work.  Prayer does not keep the news from getting worse.  Prayer does not protect innocent people. Prayer does not prevent hateful people from buying guns.

We have gotten used to praying after horrific events; Littleton, 2012, 12 deaths; Newtown, 2012, 28 deaths; San Bernardino, 2015, 14 deaths.  Each time, our hearts are broken.  Each time, we pray fervently.  Each time, we remember the lives snatched away by gun violence. Each time, we experience grief and despair.  Each time, nothing seems to change.  We have started to feel numb to it.

We do not need to pray silently.  We need to make our voices heard. People who pray do not have to agree on the exact interpretation of the Second Amendment to agree that gun violence is a national tragedy…There is plenty of room for improvement in the space between the two sides in this debate.

People who pray need to talk to their elected officials before the next tragedy,” wrote Younger, who said that protesting gun shows—which circumvent background checks— is another way of putting prayer into action. “We need to work for change that will make our communities safer,” concluded Younger.

The Rev. Katharine Salisbury, Associate Rector at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church, also gave the Brooklyn Eagle permission to reprint excerpts of remarks she made to her parish:

“In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus encounters a man with many demons.  Caged in a tomb, choked by chains, the man howls that the demons ‘are legion.’  Too many to count. Too many to heal.

In Orlando, it seems to be the same: homophobia, terrorism and nightmarish weapons placed easily into our hands.  We mourn for the people of Orlando.  We also mourn for ourselves, for participating in a community that harbors so many demons.

The tragedy in Orlando prompts our body to move. To diffuse hate at its roots, even when we find it in our own, small tendencies. To affirm the dignity of every human being, through support of groups like Integrity USA. To silence guns, through organizations like Everytown.”

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, the Rt. Rev. Lawrence Provenzano has a See that includes more than 30 Episcopal parishes within the Archdeaconry of Brooklyn. He released the following message on Sunday, June 12:

“The news of the tragic loss of life and evil perpetrated in the night club in Orlando is heartbreaking for all people. Again, we are reminded that hatred, bigotry and misguided causes, aided by the easy access to firearms, is a lethal combination. We must endeavor to address the rhetoric that fuels hate, creates fear of other people and divides God’s people.”

He and Mother Salisbury of St. Ann’s both extended an invitation to attend “A Service of Solidarity, Love and Justice” that will take place at the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City on July 12 at 7 p.m.

Rabbi Serge Lippe, who had also offered reflections at an Iftar he hosted at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue on June 15, planned a special Shabbat liturgy to take place on Friday evening, June 17, after this story went to press.

Repair the World NYC, part of a national Jewish volunteer service corps with a presence in Crown Heights, issued a statement on the Orlando massacre.

“We stand in solidarity with all LGBTQ communities and commit, with renewed urgency, to continue our work to support oppressed and marginalized people everywhere. Our broken world is, indeed, in need of repair. May the victims’ memories be a blessing.”

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