(All photos are credited to: Phil Shoulberg Photography)

“Do you think we could borrow your idea about handing out orange ribbons to the congregation for Wear Orange weekend?”  That’s how it started.  Then one of the members of Churches Together for Justice asked, “But wouldn’t it be cool if we did something together for Wear Orange Sunday?  We could have a march for gun violence awareness and prevention! We could march past all our churches starting at Webster Groves Presbyterian past First Congregational past Peace UCC and Christ Lutheran all the way down to Emmanuel Episcopal on Lockwood Avenue!” All of these churches are located on Lockwood Avenue, one of the main tree-lined streets of Webster Groves. (KMOV Reports on Gun Violence March)


Churches Together for Justice (CTJ) is an independent gathering of members from several congregations in and near Webster Groves. Our faith leads us to our commitment to challenge systems that cause harm and to work for a more inclusive and just community.  We work to achieve this by building community relationships with churches, local and state government, educational institutions, social justice organizations, and more.  We work to encourage voter registration and participation, advocate for voter protection in Jefferson City, work on gun violence awareness and prevention issues, communicate accurate information on local, state, and national issues through townhall type meetings for our churches and the community, and support vulnerable neighbors.  Gun violence awareness and prevention is a priority for CTJ.

Gun violence prevention is getting to be more and more of a priority for all of us because gun violence has become such a huge and frequent issue. No one seems to be shocked anymore when they hear of another shooting. It seems that every single day, there is some type of violence involving guns – mass shootings, accidental child shootings, school shootings, grocery store shootings, sweet sixteen party shootings, accidentally ringing the wrong doorbell shootings — ‘normal’ everyday situation types of shootings. But we must never let gun violence become normalized.

Every single day in St. Louis, and in other towns and cities around our country, gun violence is becoming more and more prevalent.  So far in 2023, there have been 184 mass shootings and more than 13,959 people have been killed in gun violence. Of those 491 were teens, and 86 were children.  An average of 115 Americans are killed each day by guns.  That is up by 5 people each day from last year’s average of 110.

No responsible gun owner should have their gun taken. But all of us can agree that something needs to happen so that we, especially our children and our neighbors’ children, can feel safe as we go about our normal lives.

Posters and flyers were created and posted around town, press releases were written, volunteer media advisors consulted, and newspaper calendar online forms were filled in. There were speakers to line up, orange balloons for the kids to be ordered, sign-in sheets created, elected officials to be invited, and the word spread to all the CTJ congregations, all their metro area churches, and to the community at large.  The more we shared what we were doing, the more it seemed everyone wanted to be part of the March.  The Public Witness Committee and DRAWP committee from the Giddings – Lovejoy Presbytery (GLPBY) got involved.  The Guns to Gardens event planning committee (a GLPBY-led gun surrender event to be held in October 2023) got involved and spread the word.  Soon we had people from Catholic churches, Quaker churches, churches from rural areas away from St. Louis, and churches in the city of St. Louis wanting to know more about what we were doing, so we emailed flyers about the March.

Meanwhile, lots of volunteers were gathered from all these different churches.  Setups were decided upon, sound systems procured,  weather checked, organizations like Moms Demand Action, Teen Suicide Prevention help groups, National Alliance for Mental Health, Lock It for Love – free gun locks distributed by Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – Suicide Prevention Office, and  The Range, who provided information on gun safety and training classes, and other collaborating organizations were invited to man tables at the end of the March to hand out information on gun violence related issues to the marchers.  ‘Take Action’ handouts were copied to distribute during the program.   Kids’ coloring tables, along with lemonade, ice water, and lots of homemade cookies, were ready to be set out.

Then we waited to see who would actually show up to march at noon on June 4 as we honored and remembered all thousand impacted by gun violence. At about 11:30 a.m., they started arriving, wearing their orange shirts, scarves, shoes, and hats, carrying signs that read ‘Enough is Enough’, ‘Protect Kids Not Guns’, and ‘We Can End Gun Violence.’

After a brief introduction and safety instructions, people, from babies in strollers to octogenarians, started walking.  As they walked, they shared their stories of how guns had impacted their own lives or the lives of loved ones. The Webster Groves Police Department assisted that long line of marchers across busy intersections. People sat on their porch stoops along the way waiting to join us as we passed by.  Some people just met us at the beautiful side lawn of Emmanuel Episcopal Church.  By the end, close to 300 people had gathered on the lawn!

The program consisted of prayers, a minute of silence for victims and survivors of gun violence, led by children of the community, a proclamation from the Webster Groves Mayor, and a poem read and reflected on by a 2023 high school graduate.  Speaker Elad Gross, former assistant attorney general, and constitutional and civil rights lawyer, spoke on the importance of taking action on gun violence. Wesley Bell, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney, spoke about gun violence prevention and ideas for making us safer, and Stephanie Krauss, a nationally known speaker and writer on youth development and whose godson was one of the students shot at CVPA last fall, spoke on how, despite these hard and scary times, we need to stand together, courageous, and brave, and keep fighting to stop the gun violence.

Then, most important, came the Call to Action. Attendees were given a handout (found here) to take home which included a list of actions people could do in just a few minutes to help stop the gun violence in our country.  Of course, voting for legislators who will take direct and immediate action for common sense gun laws is the biggest way we can make a change, but with no immediate elections on the horizon, education and small action steps taken by many individuals is the best way to do our work. Having a March and learning about gun violence prevention together is important in that it teaches us and draws awareness to the problem. However, just walking down the street and learning something new doesn’t make a change on its own. We have to ACT.

Sometimes this issue of gun violence seems like an insurmountable problem, but if we all keep taking small steps and actions, together we can make a change.   Doing God’s work for justice in the world is a marathon, not a sprint.   The work must continue, no matter how long it takes.

The fact that all these diverse individuals from urban, suburban, and rural areas, churchgoers and non-churchgoers, and many different religious denominations, young and old, came together for a common cause gives me hope.  Having attended many social justice rallies and protests, I have never seen the number of people and seen the fellowship for a local event that I saw this past Sunday at the Wear Orange March.  The positive energy was contagious.  Scores of people stood in the shade on that hot Sunday afternoon and listened and learned about gun sense and gun violence prevention.   They applauded and laughed and recognized the leadership and wisdom of all the speakers.   And they had faith – faith that they could go home to their ‘normal’ lives and not let gun violence become normalized. Together they knew they could and would take action to make the world a safer place for all of God’s children.

Julie Burchett
Webster Groves Presbyterian Church
GLPBY Public Witness Team
Churches Together for Justice


  • Posted June 6, 2023 7:49 pm
    Carleton Stock

    The March and Rally were indeed informational and inspirational events this past Sunday. Thanks to Julie and all the leadership from the churches in Webster Groves and beyond for bringing this all together. Now, the hard work of follow-up with Churches Together for Justice and other organizations to not stop until laws are passed that stop the on-going gun violence in our area and our country! It is what it means to be a follower of the Jesus Way!

  • Posted June 15, 2023 3:38 pm
    Liz Kanerva

    Julie, grateful for your leadership and excited about the fruit Guns to Guns to Gardens and the Presbyterians for Gun Sense & Safety programs will bear.

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