Mass shootings are a reality in the U.S. – there were 610 mass shootings in 2020 – but they are only a fraction of the gun violence that occurs in the country. The total number of gun-related deaths is a much larger number, around 50,000 each year.
What creates safety? When do we feel safe and why? Does our faith have anything to say about how we understand safety and how we put into practice habits of safekeeping in our homes, churches and communities?
With the assumption that faith cannot be removed from discerning how congregations choose to respond to violence in all forms, MCC and RAWtools have partnered to create an adult Sunday school curriculum, “FEAR NOT: Creating a plan to respond to active violence.” The curriculum walks congregations through a theological study and a process to create a plan appropriate to each congregation or study group.
“Scripture repeatedly calls God’s people to ‘Fear not,’” says Mike Martin, RAWtools director and co-author of the curriculum. “In Isaiah 41 it is followed by, ‘For I am with you.’
“This curriculum is an attempt to have congregations wrestle with what it means to be faithful and what it means to be ‘with’ their communities as God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus are with us, even to those who may feel the need to harm us. As Micah calls us to turn swords into plowshares, he also invites us to a vine and fig tree (everyone sitting under their own) where we are in fear of no other” (Micah 4:3-4).
FEAR NOT is the curriculum title, as well as an acronym that helps congregations organize an action plan. As groups study the curriculum, they will consider Faith, Engagement and Awareness to be able to Respond, Narrate, Observe and Transform.
The curriculum is divided into 12 sessions. The first 10 sessions survey historical experiences and theological motivations for nonviolent responses to violence. Each of these sessions has a story, a reflection, discussion questions and an activity to go deeper, and a step toward making a plan.
The final two sessions build on the completed activities and the discussions that took place in sessions 1 to 10. These two sessions help a congregation or other group create the backbone of a plan that will make sense in their community and context, and that can be formalized into a policy regarding safety. The sessions are as follows:
Session 1: Theological implications of safety – Looks at understanding what “safe” means
Session 2: Understanding our inheritance – Reflects on the context we’ve inherited
Session 3: Fear not, go in peace – Works to uncover how fear drives us
Session 4: Radical hospitality – Challenges the vulnerability of hospitality
Session 5: Nonviolence by force – Addresses concerns of power and privilege related to nonviolence
Session 6: Restoration in practice – Studies restorative practices
Session 7: Lamenting our wounds – Examines collective trauma
Session 8: Reclaiming the mental health narrative – Explores mental health responses
Session 9: Practice makes possible – Encourages the spiritual discipline of nonviolence
Session 10: Creating peace with unicorns and coffee – Inspires creative responses to nonviolence
Session 11: Value-minded policy – Begins the work of creating policy
Session 12: Writing the policy – Continues the work of creating policy
Those guiding others through the curriculum will find tips for how to facilitate the lessons. No additional training is needed for facilitators.
In addition, curriculum writers are eager to engage with interested congregations. For more information, contact Jes Stoltzfus Buller, peace education coordinator for MCC U.S. at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mike Martin, executive director of RAWtools at email@example.com.
To download the curriculum, click here.