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Episcopalians: Young Los Angeles adults stretch healing hands across nation
Wed, 26 Jun 2002 12:12:08 -0400
June 26, 2002
Episcopalians: Young Los Angeles adults stretch healing hands
by Marie Panton
(Episcopal Life) Calling people of faith to follow in the
footsteps of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks by taking "simple
acts of courage" to stop all forms of violence, Bishop Jon Bruno
and 14 young adults of the Diocese of Los Angeles recently
completed a 47-day, cross-country pilgrimage, focusing on sites
where violence has had a major impact.
Traveling by van, the participants departed the Cathedral
Center of St. Paul on April 19--the anniversary of the bombing
of the federal building in Oklahoma City. Their 17-city
itinerary included Las Vegas; Laramie, Wyoming; Omaha,
Nebraska.; Chicago; Detroit; Cleveland; Pittsburgh; and New
York. Teaching violence prevention, they shared their stories,
listened to others tell their stories and led community forums
and small-group discussions using a guidebook addressing
domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, gang activity,
elder abuse and terrorism.
Remembering a time 43 years ago--when he was 12 and growing
up in East Los Angeles in one of the toughest gang areas--Bruno
described feeling anger, fear and frustration after a
neighborhood boy attacked and beat him very badly. The youth was
angry that his father allegedly showed more kindness and
affection to Bruno, "spending a lot of time with me teaching me
how to fish" and other activities.
"I became very afraid," said Bruno. For self-protection and
defense, "I threw myself into athletics and other activities. I
was petrified, wondering what I did to bring it on ... just not
>From fear to compassion
Twenty-something Luis Garibay Jr. of the Cathedral Center in
Los Angeles could relate to the bishop's experience. He recalled
growing up in a community of "ghetto life with lots of drugs and
gang life." When he was 11, Garibay watched from the street as
his 17-year-old brother committed suicide by jumping from the
family's bathroom window.
"It was very hard," said Garibay, who, after thinking it
could not get any harder, lost his 14-year-old brother 18 months
later when a rival gang shot him to death. "I could not cry," he
said. "I wanted to see him so bad. ... I looked for him all
over; I kept thinking about how could I get a gun and go shoot
Sponsored by the diocese and the bishop's office, the
violence-prevention initiative was conceived two years ago as
one way to equip young adults with the skills needed to love
themselves and one another, so that they move from a place of
fear to a place of compassion, Bruno said.
Every place visited held a special meaning for each
participant. Before taking the trek, some said they thought it
would be just a tour; but they later discovered its real
purpose. South African-born Lester Mackenzie of Church of the
Advent in Los Angeles recalled arriving in downtown Detroit. The
place appeared "like a ghost town, with no human life."
Everything changed for him when they arrived at ACCESS (Arab
Community Center for Economic and Social Services) and he met a
former member of the Ku Klux Klan. "He told me stories about
building walls of hatred, about anger, fear and differences, and
how he turned his life around when he began to realize that the
light of God exists in all of us."
Growing up under apartheid, Mackenzie said that the trip gave
him the freedom to talk about things that he has kept hidden for
a long time. "I could talk about the fact that I can hate, that
I can be impatient and intolerant when confronted with something
different. My hatred first was to whites and then towards anyone
who inflicted violence." It was easy, he said, "to lie to myself
and say that I believe in God, but I hate a fellow human being."
Dealing with realities
In Laramie the travelers met with a friend and the college
chaplain of 24-year-old gay college student Matthew Shepard, who
was brutally beaten several years ago and left to die on an
isolated fencepost. "It was a story not from the media, but a
real friend who told us exactly the way it was," said Garibay.
"We were able to catch that feeling ... go to the site, have
prayers, get a feeling of how cold it was, how naked he was."
Anne Warnock of All Saints Church in Long Beach said that the
site where Shepard was killed and the crash site of Flight 593
in Pittsburgh during the September 11 terrorist attacks were the
most moving experiences. "I could feel the reality of death and
pain ... your life being taken involuntarily," she said. "They
were both purely violent acts."
Bruno referred to Pittsburgh as the "holy site." He recalled
a woman from the delegation. "She was cold and came to put her
head on my shoulder, and we just stood there. Then there was
another person, then another, until a circle was formed, and we
began praying for about 30 minutes for each of the names we saw
on the place," he said. "The power of seeing those people move
from being strangers on that flight to heroes ... suddenly we
were not cold anymore."
Finding God at Ground Zero
In New York, the group also visited sites touched by the
September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. First
stopping at the Episcopal Church Center, the delegation met with
several church officials, participated in a mid-day Eucharist
and luncheon, then took an afternoon tour to the United Nations.
The following day, the participants visited St. Paul's Chapel
near Ground Zero; Trinity Church, Wall Street; and the Statue of
"When we got to Ground Zero, we went through the fire station
and were standing on the roof and looking down at everything."
said Frances Moodie of St. John's Church in Los Angeles.
"Everyone was extremely warm, and leading up to that I was
having visions of myself being alone and very cold. When I was
there I was surrounded by my peers and family, and you felt very
warm and comforted ... I knew God was there in that place, and
it was good."
A former police officer and professional football player,
Bruno has worked with young people, at-risk and not-at-risk, for
the last 30 years, 17 of them at the cathedral. Committed to
teaching people how to deal with their anger, Bruno discovered
through the years that everyone needs to be taught how to deal
with each other.
"You don't teach at-risk people, you teach the whole
community," he said, "because people are afraid of at-risk
youth. And in teaching the whole community, you teach them to
relate to one another in a way that will make them act
Just a beginning
The delegation completed its tour in June. But, Bruno said,
this is only the beginning of diocesan efforts to prevent
violence in communities. Plans include making an interactive,
online curriculum available. The diocese will produce a video
about non-violence, plus three 30-minute teaching videos about
the trip with questions for discussion, and six public service
announcements reporting what the young people have to say about
what it means to be in the Episcopal Church and what it teaches.
Moodie said the trip would be worthwhile if it changed a
single life. "If we save one person and get them to not pick up
a gun, or not hit their spouse or their children, or not look at
someone in anger or with hate, then our job is done," she said.
"If we can stop and change one life, one heart, then the cycle
of abuse, of hate, of pain ceases, and then it allows love and
patience to grow."
For more information, contact the Episcopal Diocese of Los
Angeles, Cathedral Center, 213-482-2040; or visit the website at
www.HandsInHealing.org for the complete
story and a selection of photos.
--Marie Panton is editorial assistant for Episcopal Life.
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