‘Something Must Change’: Harrisburg, Pa., Pastor Reports on Efforts Against Gun Violence

Photo by Walt Wiltschek
Belita Mitchell pastors First Church of the Brethren in Harrisburg, Pa., and is a leader in the Harrisburg Chapter of Heeding God’s Call.

The Harrisburg (Pa.) Chapter of Heeding God’s Call continues to operate on the premise that “Something Must Change.” Heeding God’s Call is a faith-based movement to prevent gun violence. The organization got its start at a meeting of the Historic Peace Churches in Philadelphia, Pa.

The first Harrisburg Chapter retreat was held on Feb. 11, to review and explore ways to more effectively accomplish our goals in the prevention of illegal handgun violence. We were fortunate to have executive director Bryan Miller present in addition to newly appointed board chair Katie Day, and administrator Susan Windle.

We engaged in a lively discussion about the degree to which we wish to engage in the political aspects of prevention. There was an expressed desire to consider strengthening our connections with organizations such as Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Cease Fire PA while at the same time maintaining our unique faith perspective.

The conversation focused on the difference between “alignment” and “endorsement.” We agreed we wish to advocate in ways that do not give us the appearance of being partisan. The chapter will send recommendations to the National Board requesting the board consider some of these issues and adopt a strategy that can be supported and adapted by all chapters.

The two-pronged focus of Public Witness Prayer Vigils at the sites of murders involving guns  and the Gun Shop Campaign to persuade gun sellers to agree to the Code of Conduct will be expanded. We will develop activities designed to share more broadly the impact of illegal guns in our communities. Methods of accomplishing this goal are still under consideration.

On a sad and tragic note, through March 9, there have been four homicides in Harrisburg involving the use of a gun. We continue to show support to the families and the communities where these senseless acts of violence occur. Through our presence at these Prayer Vigils, we hope to reinforce our resolve to stand together and affirm that “Something Must Change.”

— Belita D. Mitchell pastors First Church of the Brethren in Harrisburg, Pa., and is a former Annual Conference moderator. She serves as chair of the Heeding God’s Call Coordinating Committee, Harrisburg Chapter. This report first appeared in the March newsletter from Heeding God’s Call, find it in full at http://us4.campaign-archive2.com/?u=78ec0d0fe719817883b01c35b&id=99ffafbed9&e=325f3dd055 .