A picture of Reverend Christine at the pulpit during her installation ceremony

What constitutes a Mass Shooting anymore? When do we drop stones in the vase? How do we commemorate the horrific, ever-increasing death toll by guns in this country? How do we respond as a faith community?

My second week with UUCP in 2019, there were two mass shootings in a row. At the time, these shootings were rare enough that two in one week seemed untenable. And part of my history is the trauma of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, Florida, so I am acutely aware of the impact of gun violence on a community. Looking for some way to mark these shootings, we started the tradition of putting rocks in a vase of water.

The Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group that tracks gun violence, defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people were killed or injured. So far this year, there have been seven mass shootings. Note that this doesn’t even include the horrific Michigan State shooting, where there were three people who died. Seven mass shootings in the first eight weeks of the year. Last year there were 21 mass shootings.

If you broaden the definition to a shooting where multiple people are killed or wounded, the number is 80 so far this year–an average of 10 per week, and 647 last year. This does not include random drive-by shootings, which are on the increase in Phoenix, among other cities. Or individual shootings. Or accidental shootings, and it certainly doesn’t include death by suicide or domestic violence shootings.

So what are we to do? Are there too many to stop our tradition? We just know that we’re going to be doing it more often? Do we “up” the qualifications for what makes a mass shooting worthy of inclusion in the service? All of these questions seem to miss the point–we have reached an epidemic point of gun violence. It is becoming almost “normal” for it to happen.

For me personally, I don’t ever want to become immune to the impacts of gun violence. I want it to stop and I don’t know how to do that besides write to my representatives, vote and protest. Dropping a stone into a vase doesn’t change it, but not doing anything isn’t a viable option either.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on this, and I also welcome your energy and prayers as we continue to envision a different future.