The Maine Council of Churches, Episcopal Diocese of Maine and Maine Gun Safety Coalition have asked religious congregations of all faiths to participate in Gun Safety Awareness Sabbath this weekend.

The Unity Union Church in Unity in 2022. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

During regular services Friday through Sunday, houses of worship across Maine have been urged to include prayers for gun safety awareness and prevention of gun violence. They’ve also been asked to share information with their congregations on actions that members can take to help reduce gun violence across Maine.

The church-based action follows the mass shooting in Lewiston in October that resulted in the deaths of 18 people and injured 13 others. It also comes as Maine lawmakers examine how police agencies responded to the shooting and consider additional ways to reduce gun violence.

And it recognizes that the rate of gun deaths in Maine increased 20% in the last decade, and the rate of suicide by gun increased 27% in the same period, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other data gathered by Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates for gun control.

Rev. Jane Field

In an average year, guns kill 146 Mainers, including eight children, and every 67 hours, someone in Maine takes their own life using a gun, the Maine coalition and Everytown report.

“We in the faith community need to do what we can to reduce those statistics,” said the Rev. Jane Field, executive director of the Maine Council of Churches, which includes Episcopal, Unitarian Universalist, Evangelical Lutheran, Quaker, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ and United Methodist congregations.


Field said she knows from past experience that the need for healing after such a tragedy continues long after the media spotlight fades. She previously served near Sandy Hook, Connecticut, where 26 people, many of them children, were killed in a mass shooting at an elementary school in 2012.

Gun Safety Awareness Sabbath has been organized to address that need in Maine now.

“It’s important that we not lose focus on the stark reality that was brought to light in Lewiston,” Field said. “Many people hunger for a way to put their faith into action. For many, thoughts and prayers aren’t enough. This sabbath event combines prayers with opportunity for action.”

Bishop Thomas Brown speaks during a vigil for peace in Ukraine at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland in 2022. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Field said she didn’t know how many congregations plan to participate this weekend, but that several Unitarian Universalist, Episcopal, Jewish and other religious leaders have indicated a strong interest or intention to join the event. Some have said they will participate the following weekend because this will be the first Sunday of Lent, which has a prescribed liturgy in many churches.

The statewide event was suggested by Bishop Thomas Brown of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, then embraced by the council of churches and the gun safety coalition, Field said. The coalition, which includes the council of churches, supports an assault weapons ban, a red-flag law, a 72-hour waiting period to buy a gun and background checks on all gun sales, according to the coalition’s website.

“We realize that gun violence not only damages lives, but also the relational and spiritual wellbeing of our communities,” Brown said in a statement. “When our communities hurt because of gun violence, we are compelled to heal the hurt and seek transformation.”


Field noted that most religious Americans support policies aimed at gun violence prevention, according to an Eastern Illinois University analysis of the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. It found that 84% of Buddhist, Roman Catholic, evangelical and mainline Protestant Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Mormon and Muslim Americans want background checks for all gun sales.

Field said all seven mainline Protestant denominations that are council members – which include over 400 congregations in Maine with more than 50,000 parishioners – have taken strong, faith-based stances on reducing gun violence through various measures.

This weekend’s sabbath event also gives congregations an opportunity to identify worship spaces as open places to talk about gun violence and explore ways to reduce it, Field said. That openness is necessary given the pervasiveness of gun deaths in Maine, she said.

“I can guarantee that every congregation across Maine has at least one member who has been impacted by gun violence,” she said.

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