Three hundred people from three churches and one synagogue in Bethesda gathered Friday night for song, prayer, camaraderie and a Mexican dinner on the eve of Saturday’s March For Our Lives.
Members of Congregation Beth El, Bethesda United Methodist Church, Saint Mark Presbyterian Church and St. John’s Episcopal Church, who most recently joined together in an interfaith gathering following the suicides of two area high school students, reunited for Friday night’s interfaith event to talk about their feelings on gun control and school safety as well as make friends and find ways to get to the march demonstration in Washington, D.C.
Rabbi Greg Harris of Congregation Beth El explained that participants came “to advocate together. This is the essence of what it means to be a resilient community.”
Interspersed with music and prayer, the service elevated “what was very special to saintly,” Harris said.
Asa Fradkin, who led the singing portions of the service, dedicated the night to “the victims of gunshots and those who are left to grieve.”
As Rev. Roy Howard of Saint Marks Presbyterian individually listed the many school shootings, he said, “If not now” as congregants replied, “Tell me when.”
He urged everyone to attend the March For Our Lives demonstration “to say the laws must change to protect the innocent,” adding, “It is on us, the students, the parents, the elected officials, the clergy – to make sure that no one every forgets all who were killed.”
Rev. Jenny Cannon of Bethesda United Methodist noted it was important to realize that people of other faiths care for each other and “we will lift each other up.”
She read from a passage entitled, “We Shouldn’t Need These Words,” which included, “words of hope and healing in times of terror.”
Following the service, participants crossed Old Georgetown Road together to share dinner at Cannon’s church, where people filled their plates with chicken, beans, rice and vegetables.
Susan Bender, of Moms Demand Action, explained she was there to join in and “to create a swelling of the ground roots” for gun control.
Ilana Cohen of North Bethesda arranged to continue the interfaith event, arranging for meals, a chance to make posters and a service following Saturday’s march.
“We had a very moving and successful weekend experience, said Cohen, whose 10-year-old daughter, Ella Longman accompanied her.
Abigail Kessel, 15, not only planned to attend the march in D.C., but she was trained to volunteer to assist people in the crowd who had questions or needed directions.
The Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School student said that living near the nation’s capital gave her the opportunity to protest as well as help.
“I feel like gun violence is a very easy problem to solve. All you have to do is limit guns. It’s not rocket science,” she said.
Referring to the Second Amendment concerning the right to bear arms, Kessel said, “It’s really a different context today than it was in 1776. It was the Revolutionary War then,” she said, as she sat at a table with her brother and parents.
But tablemate Morgan Davis, 28, didn’t think it was that simple. Violence in this country won’t be stopped just by writing gun laws. People will just go to another state or buy guns on the black market, said Davis, who also planned to join the March for Our Lives.
“Shootings in Chicago, Baltimore, D.C., it has to stop,” she said.