Local church addresses the issue of mass shootings

Local church addresses the issue of mass shootings
April 05
05:00 2018

The tragic mass shootings that have popped up across the nation in recent years have continued to raise concerns among many people.  On Wednesday, March 21, a forum to discuss ways of preventing these tragedies was held at First Baptist Church on Highland Avenue.

The church, in conjunction with Wake Forest Baptist Church, held a “Deliberative Dialogue” with people of all ages and backgrounds to share their personal experiences.  They explored different positions, examined the benefits and trade offs of each and determined if they could locate shared values and common ground for a course of action.

They started the night off with a meal prior to the discussion to have everyone fellowship with one another to enhance the comfort level.  There were individuals ranging in age from high school all the way to senior citizen.  Over 120 people attended.

Once the meal was concluded, everyone met as a group, then separated into smaller groups to further discuss a resolution to the issue.  To close the night, everyone reconvened to speak about what transpired in the smaller groups.

“We went through the deliberative dialogue process, which I found to be extremely valuable,” said Carol Reeve, a participant in the discussion.  “I thought it was really helpful because we had three different approaches that were laid out very objectively to address the issue around gun violence and mass shootings.”

“We as a group just hashed through those a little bit and shared our personal experiences and reflections on those three options,” she continued.  “We all come from different stances, so looking at this methodology to look at three options and seeing the pros and cons is very valuable.”

Students from Winston-Salem State University came down to First Baptist to join the discussion.  Harleigh Haynie and Jaylan Horton were two of the students who attended.  They said they came out to discuss ways of preventing further tragedies.

“In our group we came up with some great ideas, especially when it comes to the school system,” Horton said.  “I just think if we come together and have discussions with the youth we can let them know what the long-term effects of gun violence are so they are aware of it.”

Haynie added, “For me it was more or less about how we can reach out and break the barrier when it comes to talking to other people.  I just want to make sure I do my part by bridging the gap by asking my peers if they are doing OK and I want to make sure everyone is doing well and they have someone to talk to.”

With the increase in school shootings, hearing from a high school student about the issue seemed apropos that evening.  Ella Reeve is a local high school student says she felt compelled to come out and experience a discussion with people from different backgrounds and beliefs to address the issue of gun violence.

“Sometimes hearing about these shootings that have taken place makes it scary to go to school,” said Reeve.  “This is something people 10 to 20 years ago didn’t have to experience.  What I can do is just raise awareness and let people know their voice is heard and you can make a difference with those who have the power.”

Jill McMillan, Wake Forest University professor emeritus, is the developer of the Deliberative Dialogue.  She says they have held many dialogues over the years and have found it to be a very effective method to help resolve the topic of the discussion.

“The goal here is not to totally solve problems but to just take steps toward fixing the problem,” McMillan said.  “We may not be able to stop the gun violence but maybe we can spark the discussion that eventually does lead to a remedy.”

Rev. Paul Robeson Ford, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, says he felt this was an opportunity to come together and address the issue that is “right in front of us now.”  He says the objective is to build a collaborative foundation for everyone to move forward together.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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