As a new church development pastor, I have been listening to the concerns of people in our city. Gun violence is definitely a concern. There are way too many murders in St. Petersburg. One is too many. I became much more aware of this in January following our Dr. King Parade in St. Pete. While preparing to march in the parade, a friend handed me a newsletter. The newsletter was edited by the mother of a young man who had been tragically murdered in St. Pete last September. I put the newsletter in my back pocket. Later that week, I picked it up again from my dinning room table and read it. I was moved by this mother's story and her dedication to honoring her son's memory by seeking to drive violent crime from our city. Furthermore, her son's murder was a part of a double murder and is still unsolved. This mom, Lisa, had begun a foundation, The Cabretti Foundation, in order to teach peace and drive violent crime from our city.
After reading the newsletter, I called Lisa and volunteered for the next Clean-Up Day in memory of her son, Cabretti. I have now volunteered for two quarterly clean-up days. It has been my privilege to meet Lisa and some of her family and friends. Following the first clean-up day, Lisa agreed to meet with a small group at a local coffee shop. We heard her story and reflected on how we might better teach the ways of peace in our cities.
In the days following our meeting with Lisa, back in April, a little girl was gunned down in St. Pete by a hail of bullets from a gang fight. The little girl was sleeping in her bed. The little girl attended the same elementary school as my niece. It was another tragedy. Every murder whether a little girl, a senior citizen or a teenager is a tragedy and the violence must stop. Gun violence is impacting our city.
The violence doesn't seem to be on the the radar of most St. Pete churches. There are some churches and civic leaders who are working to end the violence, but not many. My prayer is that we can more effectively address the issue of violence in St. Pete. Missional communities of faith engage the hurts and hopes of their cities including gun violence and standing with those who mourn. We proclaim a gospel of healing, help and hope in Jesus Christ not just with words but with our action and compassion.