LENOX -- A public forum to explore faith-based solutions to gun violence has been organized by the Lenox Clergy Association to build bridges of communication between supporters of tighter regulations and advocates of Second Amendment rights.
Sponsored by the Lenox Clergy Association, the 90-minute event -- billed as a combination of prayer, scripture and conversation -- will be held on at 7 p.m. Monday at the Trinity Episcopal Church parish hall, 88 Walker Street.
"We hope that this forum will provide a respectful space within which we can explore how our faith informs our position on this important topic," according to a joint statement from the association.
In addition to the general public, parishioners of Trinity, St. Ann Catholic Church, Church on the Hill and United Methodist Church, all in Lenox, have been invited to attend.
The discussion will be moderated by the members of the Lenox Clergy Association -- Pastor Natalie Chiras of Church on The Hill, along with the Rev. Christopher J. Waitekus of St. Ann, the Rev. Michael Tuck of Trinity and Janet Deranian, pastor of United Methodist.
"It began as an idea I had about having a community session" following the Dec. 14 Newtown school shootings, Tuck said in an interview. "We kicked around having it be secular, but found that would be insufficient because a lot of the policy responses didn’t fit in with a Christian message of hope."
Describing "a great
Tuck said the clergy members were seeking a model for a different approach to the gun violence discussion. "There will be prayers and scripture, but the bulk of the forum will be a process of reflective and respectful dialogue," he emphasized.
Following an opening welcome and prayer, those attending, seated in a circle, will be offered a minute to speak at the outset, if they so choose, followed by another round of dialogue. There will be a concluding reading of scripture and a prayer.
"It’s very structured to avoid the temptation to dive into the more polarizing aspects of the conversation," Tuck said. "My sense is that there haven’t been too many opportunities within this community for people to publicly voice their pain around the Newtown shootings, and also for people who are engaged in the hunting culture to express their concerns about how society may be shifting around them."
Asked what the ideal result of the event might be, Tuck responded: "Maybe for some people it might inspire them to greater political action; for others it might help alleviate fear embedded in our society around violence and the need to have guns to protect them, to expose and name that fear."
He also voiced hope that "it can be a way that the Christian community can learn to intersect their public lives and their religious faith."
If the format is deemed successful, he said, occasional discussions may be scheduled to explore public policy issues such as health care and taxation.
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If you go ...
n What: Lenox Clergy Association discussion of gun violence, a combination of prayer, scripture and conversation
n When: 7 p.m. Monday
n Where: Trinity Episcopal Church parish hall, 88 Walker Street