West Philadelphia – Millcreek Baptist Church Organizing Against Gun Violence
Transformed by the Spirit – Ministry Story Opportunity
Rev. Dr. Dolores E. Lee McCabe
Oh, what a beautiful evening! There was a beautiful silence complimented by a setting sun with a few shoppers on the Avenue and an air of anticipation. It was the perfect evening for an outdoor event in the northern side of West Philadelphia. Millcreek Baptist Church had gathered a large group of people from a variety of racial, economic and religious backgrounds to stand up against gun violence. At the inception of addressing the problem there were approximately 30,000 deaths in the USA per year that resulted from gun violence while others nations had only a small number of gun related death, many under 100 deaths per year. Deaths by guns included Civil Rights Leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President John F. Kennedy, Presidential Candidate Robert Kennedy and a host of unknown persons nationally, but just as important personally to those who loved them.
A local example was three minutes from Millcreek, 8 people were killed execution style and others were wounded. This happened just prior to my installation as pastor. Shortly after that incident, my own nephew left his home in North Philadelphia and went to the corner store to get some chicken wings at about midnight. When he and two friends were leaving the store, some boys with guns said, “Don’t move.” All three boys ran: My nephew was killed at 21 years old with one bullet in the back, the other two boys were shot, one 12 times and one had multiple bullets in his body. They both were able to attend my nephew’s funeral.
After the sermon that I preached, 15 young people accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, which indicated that this broken community needed a relationship with Jesus Christ. Other members of Millcreek had relatives who had been killed or wounded through gun violence. These situations provided the impetus to develop a program to address the problem of gun violence. I would be remiss not to mention that on the day of this “Stop the Violence” event, one of my youngest members of Millcreek lost his father to gun violence.
As I looked over the street where the event would take place, I observed that the street had been closed by the police, the bandstand was located in the middle of the street, the group check in table was ready and behind the bandstand was a trailer with a volunteer who worked with school aged children to create buttons that tells others to “Stop the Violence.” Members of Millcreek were busy putting chairs in front of the bandstand, others were setting up a registration area, and still others were helping to set up the audio-visual system. When we had trouble with the A/V equipment, a man appeared who wanted to do his community service with us. He was the A/V Servant Leader at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, the Rev. Dr. Alyn Waller, Pastor. Enon was one of our partner churches, the pastor asked his members to attend Enon on Saturday, do their community service at Millcreek and give their tithe at Millcreek. Therefore Enon members were poised to help us “Stop the Violence.”
We planned the event to be combined with our Friday evening meal that was sponsored by Chosen 300, a group that is committed to feeding the homeless. Our partners from Upper Merion Baptist Church were working with the food program. They were setting up tables, serving dishes and food, of which they provided most of the food along with Millcreek providing some additional food.
The worship leader, some of the ministers and some of the groups from other churches began to arrive. A musical group called “Rich in Christ,” Richard Lee, Director from Detroit, Michigan served as our main musical group. After the Detroit group arrived, people seemed to gather from everywhere and every space seemed to be filled with anti-gun violence groups like Mothers in Charge, Dorothy Johnson Speight, Heeding God’s Call, the Rev. Dr. Katie Day, President, and a variety of religious groups that were dedicated to ending gun violence including Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Mennonites, and Muslims.
Heeding God’s Call added to the ambiance with a “Tee Shirt Memorial” to those who had been killed in Philadelphia by gun violence the year before the event. The name of the deceased, date of birth and death appear on each shirt. This memorial is available to organizations interested in bringing attention to the problem of gun violence. There were city, state and federal political leaders, the Deputy Police Commissioner, local police, the Deputy Mayor, members of the media, including print and electronic, and the business community. Adding to these were singers, dancers, mime performers, ministers and several hundred-community members. Community members enjoyed a complete meal from salad to dessert. Then they enjoyed a wonderful program including a sermon by the Rev. James Lovett, Pastor, Tasker Street Baptist Church ending with an altar call that addressed the woundedness of those who had lost loved ones to gun violence.
This event was made possible because I, the Rev. Dr. Dolores E. Lee McCabe, Pastor of Millcreek presented previous anti-gun violence events to a group of Mainline Christians at Central Baptist Church in Wayne, PA. At the end of my presentation I announced that we would not be able to have the event the next year, because we would not be funded again. Katy Friggle-Norton, the leader from Central Baptist said, “We can’t let that happen, you must continue this event.” She sent the word out to the mainline religious community. We received gifts from Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic, and Jewish congregations. We provided a weekend of events that began with the Friday night Rally, then Saturday educational workshops and on Sunday concluding with worship and a fellowship meal. Instead of the gun buy back from the previous two years, we gave gift cards to those who had lost members of their immediate family to gun violence. Oh what a beautiful evening! We gathered people from religious, political, public safety, communications, including television and newspapers, and the Philadelphia community; we worshiped, sang, danced and shared inspirational comments against the epidemic of gun violence; and took a stand against the evil that seeks to annihilate our community.