The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

“Thug Sunday”: Detroit church buys back guns

A church in Detroit kicked off the new liturgical year by doing something besides lighting a candle and hanging purple:

St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church held a gun buyback event Saturday, offering $20 for each weapon.

The church, known for its summer basketball games that feature NBA stars as well as community service, used the event to try and make streets safer, officials said.

“There is a need for this,” said the Rev. Ted Parker, the church pastor. “This is our contribution to peace.”

Several people apparently were onboard with that sentiment. There was a line outside the church gym of 20 people before the event started at 11 a.m.


All guns had to be unloaded, but church officials otherwise asked no questions about the weapons.

The guns didn’t have to be in working condition, but all that were exchanged in the early part of Saturday’s event were able to fire, said Detroit Police Officer Patricia Smith as she dismantled three pistols.

Smith said one home-made gun was held together with tape and fell apart when the tape was removed.

Catholic News Service has some background on how the event came about:

When Father Theodore Parker started thinking about how he could celebrate Advent differently at St. Cecilia Parish in Detroit this year, he didn’t think he would have to quell the fears of his parishioners.


But how would his so-called “Thug Sundays” strike you upon first reference?

“At first they were kind of taken aback by the term,” said Father Parker, who recently heard about a similar service aimed at personal reconciliation performed recently at a church in suburban Macomb County. “But I explained the fact that we’re not asking people to come to church with guns blazing.”

The concept is a simple one: Forgiveness and healing is for everyone, for “thugs” and “thugettes” alike.

Father Parker said inner-city communities, like those in Detroit, need reconciliation on a very personal level, and that people who are hurting often lash out in desperation.

“Around us there’s basically a sense of hopelessness oftentimes,” he told The Michigan Catholic, newspaper of the Detroit Archdiocese. “People don’t have jobs. They’re angry, angry at their situation … angry when they’re not able to improve their lives. It’s just this violence that goes on and it has to stop somewhere.”

You can find more at the CNS link.

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posted November 29, 2009 at 11:25 pm

It was a good idea, and may indeed helped save a few lives in the short term. Unfortunately, these programs are unlikely to have any lasting effect. The supply of weapons is too vast, and the culture and economic forces feeding urban violence are unchanged. We could eliminate half of the violence or more by ending the insane war on drugs which funds criminal organizations. We should also revive something like the old WPA to give people decent working opportunities, even if it’s just makework type things. We’d save a fortune in the long run. Unfortunately, there are vast sectors of our economy (prison, payday loans) which profit from the current situation. If the church obsessed over these things the way they do abortion, they might do some real good in the world.

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posted November 30, 2009 at 10:28 am

Gun buy backs are really a “make you feel good effort,” won’t do anything to really reduce violence and may possibly hinder the investigation of a crime. It may give a person a couple of bucks in their pockets but how many criminals will really turn in a working gun? Maybe if it is broken or used in a recent crime a “thug” may turn one in.
Guns, like knives or baseball bats, are inanimate objects. They cannot do anything on their own. It is up to the person using them to decide if it will be used for good (defending your family in the case of a gun) or evil.
When we realize that it is not the object that causes the crime but the person, then we can divert those resources that are used for gun buy-backs, etc. to really help people.

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posted November 30, 2009 at 10:31 pm

I have to disagree with Kenneth and AWashingtonDCCatholic…remember this story?
The Starfish Story– Original Story by: Loren Eisley
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed
a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.
Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”
The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean.
The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” “Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!” After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish,and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said…”I made a difference for that one.”
I think it will make a difference for the Advent people who brought in guns at St. Cecilia. Even if it is only a moment of pause for those people who might have used THAT gun for violence against another, it’s worth it.
As Catholics, we set the example to do what we can, no matter how insignificant it might seem to be. We don’t tell people, “here’s the Gospel, now believe and then I will help you”. We show people by our actions who we are and what we believe and when they ask, “why do you do this”, we tell them it is BECAUSE of the Gospel. And then, they too, might believe.

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