In the aftermath of the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting, two ministers at the First Congregational Church of Cheshire searched for a meaningful way to make a statement about gun violence. Their quest ultimately led to involvement with Swords to Plowshares Northeast, an organization that turns surrendered guns into garden tools.
As reported in the Record-Journal, Rev. James Campbell and Rev. Alison McCaffrey felt an urgent need for the church to take action and respond to the horrific event that resulted in the deaths of 19 elementary school children and two teachers, as well as wounding 17 others.
The ministers heard about Swords to Plowshares Northeast through a member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church who also serves as a representative of the Boulder Knoll Community Farm. Boulder Knoll wanted to bring a Swords to Plowshares demonstration to the farm as a creative way to educate the community and “address the problem of so many guns in circulation.”
The phrase “swords to plowshares” comes from the Book of Isaiah, and refers to taking instruments of war and turning them into tools for peaceful civilizations. The way the organization states this is: “The strategy we apply to this problem is to convert weapons of death into tools of life, and then use those tools for the betterment of the community.”
Swords to Ploughshares also works to build community coalitions to help reduce gun violence. The group partners with police departments to obtain guns that have been turned in.
On Sunday, St. Peter’s, First Congregational and Boulder Knoll Community Farm will co-sponsor a guns-to-garden tools demonstration at the farm. One of the founders of Swords to Ploughshares, the Right Reverend James E. Curry, will serve as blacksmith and, using a forge and anvil, demonstrate how to transform gun parts. In the R-J story, Curry says this is “just one strategy, one prong in a multipronged approach to changing the attitude toward gun violence in our community.”
In practical terms, at this scale turning guns into tools is primarily symbolic, but the message is powerful. We can and must do better to stop the proliferation of guns and the terrible toll that’s taken as assaults unfold in our schools, malls, churches and streets — all the places we gather for our peaceful, daily activities. We can turn away from violence and put our efforts into retooling our communities into safer, saner places.