From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: Young Los Angeles adults stretch healing hands across nation

Date Wed, 26 Jun 2002 12:12:08 -0400

June 26, 2002


Episcopalians: Young Los Angeles adults stretch healing hands 
across nation

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 for the complete 
story and a selection of photos.

--Marie Panton is editorial assistant for Episcopal Life.

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