[Editor's note: The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by the Melrose Clergy Association.]
The members of the Melrose Clergy Association continue to grieve and reflect upon last month’s tragic massacre of children and adults in Newtown Connecticut; and we continue to pray for the precious children, their families, their teachers, and those first responders and public servants who raced to offer their aid and comfort as this devastating event unfolded. We pray that the God of love and truth will surround the community of Newtown, and inspire and enable other communities, like our own, to find ways to ensure the peace and safety of our children.
In the wake of such senseless violence and loss of innocent life, we stand firmly together to encourage the citizens and leaders in our local community, our congregations and beyond, to work for a world in which such violence is no longer commonplace.
As we approach the time when our community and nation remembers and honors the life and legacy of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we pledge to address these issues from our pulpits during this season of remembrance. We wish to encourage our congregations and our community to confront the conditions that make violence so prevalent in the United States. This is an appropriate time to begin an ongoing dialogue within our congregations and the greater Melrose community about the issues associated with violence in America.
We endorse and offer our full support to the mayor’s recent “New Year, New Directions” Initiative, which seeks to encourage and enable parents to engage their children in conversations about the culture of violence which permeates our society; and to encourage the exchange of toy weaponry, games, videos, etc. which are simply too violent with more suitable alternatives.
Together we advocate for much stronger accountability in regards to gun registration and ownership, weapons tracking (sale, theft, loss, and exchange of guns), legislation that would require that every person who wishes to purchase a gun must pass a criminal background check, and legislation that would ban the sale and possession of high-capacity assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines.
We acknowledge that gun control is not the only issue that touches upon violence in our communities, and we acknowledge the need to advocate for public policy changes and the way we address these issues in our public discourse. We seek further discourse on ways that we might discourage the graphic depiction and glorification of violence by the entertainment industry, which greatly influences our society, and ways that these issues might be addressed through education and consciousness raising.
We agree that it is long past time when government and public health administrators and legislators elevate mental illness to a far higher priority. We affirm the need to expand resources for research, treatment options, and more effective ways to identify and treat individuals who are dangerous to themselves and others; and likewise compassionate, yet effective ways to further protect communities from such dangers. We also re-affirm our society’s need for the de-stigmatization of mental illness, both for those who suffer, and those who are afflicted by proximity to it.
We sign our names as members of the Clergy Association standing in solidarity with each other, and not on behalf of the congregations where we serve.
Rev. Barbara R. Threet, Unitarian Universalist Church, and President of the Melrose Clergy Association
Rev. Stephen M. Boyle, Pastor of Incarnation Parish
Rev. Damaris Cami-Staples, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Melrose
Rabbi Arnold M. Fertig, D.D., Temple Beth Shalom
Reverend Charles G. Hartman, First United Methodist Church of Melrose
Rev. Beth Horne, Melrose Highlands Congregational Church
Rev. Bruce J. Lomas, Trinity Episcopal Church
Rev. Larry Starr, Green Street Baptist Church
Rev. Dominic Taranowski, First Congregational Church of Melrose