Claiming Common Ground Against Gun Violence: An Invitation from Bishop Lee

June 17, 2015

Dear Friends,

Friday is a day of rejoicing for students in Chicago’s public schools. It is their last day of school before summer vacation. But the warm, inviting weather of late spring and early summer also bring fresh waves of violence to streets in Chicago and elsewhere across our diocese. Evidence is already beginning to mount that this may be an especially deadly summer, and that our young people will be at particular risk.

Twelve people were shot to death in Chicago over the Memorial Day weekend. Another 64 people were killed or wounded by gunfire during the first seven days of this month. It is easy to lose hope and to lose heart in the face of such widespread violence, and to wonder what any of us can do to stop a slaughter whose causes include, but are not limited to, poverty, a failing education system, racial segregation and the easy availability of guns.

While “solving” the problem of violence in any sort of comprehensive way may be beyond our abilities, I encourage you to meditate on the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who knows a few things about responding to vast and seemingly intractable injustices. “Do your little bit of good where you are,” he wrote. “It’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

The Diocese of Chicago does a “little bit of good” through its CROSSWalk to Work program, which creates summer jobs and internships for economically-disadvantaged young people. For years, we and other advocates of teen employment programs have been telling people that “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.” Research bears this out. In a recent study inSciencemagazine demonstrated that teenagers who took part in eight-week summer jobs programs were 43 percent less likely to be arrested for a violent crime over a 16-month period than those in a control group. This summer, in partnership with Youth Guidance, we will provide 14 jobs and internships, and next summer we hope to provide more.

No mater what this summer holds, I urge you not to lose faith in our ability, with God’s grace, to change lives, and perhaps even to save them. Spend some time thinking and praying about the “little bit of good” that you can. Spend some time exploring how you might go about doing it, and what kinds of organizations are already in place to help you.

I’d appreciate it, especially, if you would say a prayer for the success of Claiming Common Ground Against Gun Violence, an event being sponsored by Bishops United Against Gun Violence, of which I am a member. We will be gathering at 7:15 a. m. on Sunday June 28 in Salt Lake City, outside the Salt Palace convention center during the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, for a mile-long prayerful procession that will be animated by prayer, drumming and singing and punctuated by the testimony of those who have seen and felt the pain of gun violence in their own lives. (For more information, visit If you happen to be in Salt Lake City, I’d be delighted if you would join us. If not, please follow along online at the hashtag #claimitgc

Let us hold one another, and the people of our region, in prayer this summer, and may our prayers bring us the clarity to see what we can do and the courage to do it.

Your brother in Christ,