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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