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PPF to offer churches practical training for Gun Violence prevention

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

When the call went out to those concerned about gun violence to go to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, the first registrants ranged from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Why go to New Mexico? For the James Atwood Institute for Congregational Courage. This new initiative of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship will be held August 22-25, 2024 at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico. The goal? To train clergy and lay leaders for the long mission of ending the gun violence epidemic, a disaster that took over 43,000 American lives last year.

Ghost Ranch.

“Why come to such a beautiful place to focus on such a painful issue? I think that the quiet of the mesa will clear our minds so that we can learn how to tackle the issue of gun violence effectively,” said Rev. Harry Eberts, pastor of one of the sponsors of the Atwood Institute, First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe. “The country needs it. The church needs it.” Since 1955, the 21,000-acre Ghost Ranch Education & Retreat Center has hosted Presbyterians for continuing education, training and renewal.

As part of the Presbyterian Decade to End Gun Violence and in celebration of the 80th birthday of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, the Atwood Institute will offer practical training for a range of Gun Violence Prevention (GVP) educational, pastoral and action strategies for local congregations. Participants can follow up the event with quarterly online gatherings with their Atwood Institute community, with a goal of encouraging one another over time. The Atwood Institute is ecumenical, open to all denominations.

Updates on Atwood Institute for Congregational Courage:

  1. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, an agency of the PC(USA), will join the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship event to offer training on gun violence emergency response, alongside trauma specialist, Mebane Boyd, a Resilient Communities Officer at the North Carolina Partnership for Children. Boyd is the daughter of Jim Atwood and Roxana Atwood.  
  2. Top GVP activists will offer hands-on training, such as Miranda Viscoli of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence on involving youth and young adults in GVP; internationally-known Catholic Priest and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Father John Dear, on the faith basis for courage to prevent gun violence; blacksmiths from RAWTools on the Guns to Gardens movement, including a time for participants to help transform a gun into a garden tool. Skills covered will range from preaching and discussing GVP effectively to congregational education and advocacy, to secure gun storage campaigns such as the BeSMART for Kids Campaign, and more. Participants can expect to go home equipped to start or strengthen GVP mission in their congregations. 
  3. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) will also arrive at the Institute with a film crew and producer David Barnhart, as part of the creation of a sequel to their award-winning film “Trigger.” The film team will provide interview options for Atwood Institute participants and leaders who wish to share about the GVP mission of their congregations and their own motivation for saving lives, to possibly be included in the new documentary. 
  4. Additional Option: Stay at Ghost Ranch a few more days for the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship National Gathering Aug. 25-28. Celebrate PPF’s 80th year, build community and plan for the future of peacemaking.

See www.presbypeacefellowship.org/events

The Atwood Institute honors the late Presbyterian prophet of gun violence prevention, Rev. James Atwood, pastor, missionary, hunter, author and champion for people of faith stepping up to stop the violence. June marks four years since his death from COVID. 

“Jim was prophetically called to a gun violence prevention ministry and it took courage. But, from the very beginning in 1975, he always found friends in this work, someone he could encourage and who could encourage him,” reflects Rev. Roxana Atwood, Jim’s wife. “Courage is not about individuals doing this work alone. It’s about community, about courageous congregations.”

The cost for the four-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. Teams from churches are encouraged if possible. 

For questions about the Atwood Institute, contact gvp@presbypeacefellowship.org

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

Space is limited. Learn more & Register.

Thanks to Sponsors for the event, some scholarships will be available. To request a scholarship, contact Christa Galvin. 

Sponsors, so far, include Trinity Presbyterian Church of Harrisonburg, VA, First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe, The Presbyterian Outlook, New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. To participate as a sponsor, please contact gvp@presbypeacefellowship.org

Where do I register?

You can register here and learn more here.

Who was James Atwood?

Photo of Jim and Roxana Atwood by Della Orr-Harter

When a member of his Virginia congregation was murdered with a $20 handgun in 1975, Jim Atwood began nearly 50 years of calling the church of Jesus Christ to take action to balance the rights of responsible gun owners with the right to live free from gun violence. 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. Find book links and study guides in the Education Section of the Peace Fellowship’s Gun Violence Prevention Congregational Toolkit at: www.presbypeacefellowship.org/gun-violence/congregational-toolkit

What is the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship? 

Founded in 1944, PPF is an independent 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. We operate with volunteers and a small staff, collaborating with the PC(U.S.A.) and encouraging this work in our congregations and presbyteries. 

Media contacts

Rev. Jan Orr-Harter, janoh4@aol.com

Rev. Margery Rossi, margery@presbypeacefellowship.org

Rev. Dr. Laurie Lyter Bright, laurie@presbypeacefellowship.org

Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, (845)786-6743

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