Continuing education for gun violence prevention

Join the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship at the James Atwood Institute for Congregational Courage on Aug. 22-25, 2024, at Ghost Ranch.

James Atwood Institute for Congregational Courage at Ghost Ranch Aug. 22-25, 2024

Peace Fellowship Honors a Gun Violence Prevention Prophet by Multiplying Courage

Keynote Speaker Father John Dear

With every event of gun violence, does the Spirit tug at you to do something? Yet what? And how? And do I have the courage and skill to do it? Or … I’ve been working on this – How do I become more effective?

James Atwood
James Atwood

If these questions call to you, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship invites you – and perhaps others from your church – to attend the inaugural James Atwood Institute for Congregational Courage at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico, on August 22-25, 2024. Honoring the late Presbyterian prophet of gun violence prevention James Atwood, the Institute will offer intense continuing education for clergy and lay leaders in a range of educational, pastoral and action strategies for gun violence prevention mission in the local congregation.

“In the church we speak of energy, intelligence, imagination and love,” said Rev. Margery Rossi, Acting Coordinator of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship’s Gun Violence Prevention Ministry. “To that list Jim Atwood urged the cultivation of courage. None of those spiritual gifts matter unless we have the courage to act on them.” The purpose of the Atwood Institute is to cultivate this courage by providing new skills and an ongoing community to overcome the sense of frustration, helplessness and isolation that church leaders can feel on gun violence prevention and other difficult issues.

Occurring annually, the Atwood Institute will train clergy and lay leaders in Gun Violence Prevention (GVP) practical skills for congregational use, including preaching on and discussing GVP effectively, managing opposition and trauma, emergency response to gun violence, and engaging congregations and communities in practical GVP education and action. The institute is ecumenical, welcoming all denominations. It will offer hands-on training for Guns to Gardens events, including the opportunity to transform a gun into a garden tool. Additionally, participants will have the option to follow up the event with quarterly online gatherings with their Atwood Institute community, with a goal of encouraging one another over time.

Father John Dear
Father John Dear

On Thursday evening Aug. 22 at 7 pm, Father John Dear will offer a keynote address for the Ghost Ranch event, speaking on the faith basis for courage to prevent gun violence. A Catholic priest, author of 40 books and a globally recognized activist for Christian nonviolence, Father Dear’s latest book is The Gospel of Peace: A Commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke from the Perspective of Nonviolence. Area local congregations are invited for Father Dear’s address.

The costs for the three-and-a-half-day Atwood Institute will be a $180 registration fee per person, plus participants are responsible for their own travel and lodging at Ghost Ranch.  Family members are welcome to come for daily Ranch activities or a time for renewal.

Download a brochure about the August 22-25 Atwood Institute at Ghost Ranch.

For questions about the Atwood Institute, contact

Space is limited. Register for the Aug. 22-25 Atwood Institute at

Thanks to sponsors for the event, some scholarships will be available. In addition to the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, sponsors, so far, include First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe, The Presbyterian Outlook and New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence. To participate as a sponsor, please contact Rev. Jan Orr-Harter, Moderator of the Peace Fellowship’s Gun Violence Prevention Working Group, at

About Ghost Ranch   

Since 1955 the 21,000-acre Ghost Ranch in Northern New Mexico has served the PC (U.S.A.) as a serene and invigorating home for education and retreat.

“Why come to such a beautiful, sacred place to focus on such a difficult and painful issue? I think that the quiet of the mesa and the blue of the sky will clear our minds so that we can learn how to tackle the issue of gun violence prevention. The country needs it. The church needs it,” said Rev Harry Eberts, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe, NM and Co-President of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence.

“I can think of no better place than Ghost Ranch to launch the Atwood Institute and to facilitate such an important discussion.” 

Who was James Atwood?

Jim Atwood was a Presbyterian missionary, pastor, author and avid hunter whose life was re-directed when a member of his Virginia congregation was murdered with a $20 handgun in 1975.  For nearly 50 years, he called the church of Jesus Christ to take action to balance the rights of responsible gun owners with the right to live free from an epidemic that now takes over 43,000 lives in our country each year. Recipient of the Peace Fellowship’s Peaceseeker Award and the David Steele Distinguished Writer Award of the Presbyterian Writers Guild, his books include: America and Its Guns – A Theological Exposé, Gundamentalism and What It is Doing to America, and Collateral Damage. Links to these books and study guides are available in the Education Section of the Peace Fellowship’s Gun Violence Prevention Congregational Toolkit at:

What is the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship?

Established in 1944, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship is a nationwide community of Presbyterians committed to the nonviolence of Jesus Christ. We equip congregations and individuals to seek practical alternatives to violence and war, including gun violence. As an independent group, we operate with volunteers and a small staff, collaborating with the PC(U.S.A.) and encouraging this work in our congregations and presbyteries. Learn more at

Additional Option!

Presbyterian Peace Fellowship Activist Council Gathering Aug. 25-28 at Ghost Ranch: Atwood Institute participants are welcome to stay for these days of worship, training and community. For questions about the Peace Fellowship Activist Council Gathering, contact Christa Galvin at
(Photo of Jim Atwood by Della Orr-Harter)

Media contacts

Rev. Jan Orr-Harter,

Rev. Margery Rossi,

Rev. Dr. Laurie Lyter Bright,

Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, (845)786-6743