This past weekend, two OCO member churches participated in the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath, a national initiative spearheaded by sister organization Lifelines to Healing to raise awareness about the crisis of gun violence throughout the country.

Imani Community Church and True Vine Ministries both held services to encourage their members to take action by calling on elected officials to pass comprehensive gun control legislation.

At True Vine, Pastor Zachary Carey asked his congregation to bring photos of their loved ones so that they could be acknowledged and prayed for.

During the Sunday sermon, he preached about the impact of violence on their church and stressed the motto of Soldiers Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE): “Say something.” SAVE is a stop-the-violence initiative Carey launched.

Before the service, members of SAVE participated in a Stand-In on Saturday on 14th and Peralta to call attention to the recent murder of a 48-year-old father on that very same corner.

Imani highlighted three families at their church that have been personally impacted by gun violence.

The sister of Imani member Lalane Coaxum was killed in a drive-by shooting three years ago in North Oakland. A photo of Coaxum’s sister was placed on the altar, and she gave a testimonial about how the loss of her sister to gun violence left her with a deep void.

The nephew of Ramona Foreman, the grandmother who was killed by a stray bullet as she was walking in front of a Head Start building on International Boulevard, was also invited to give a testimonial.

The parents of a young man, who was among five shot last week outside a birthday party in East Oakland, also gave testimony about their experience and how they lived in fear for the safety of their son.

“The center of the moment was that the whole church family was surrounding them,” said Rev. George Cummings, pastor of Imani Community Church and an OCO board member. “This was a real-time situation, not something that happened a long time ago. We were all there praying for them and lifting up the mother and father who were afraid for their son, and we were also praying for the young men affected by the violence.”

Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews, the PICO Director of Clergy Organizing, preached a sermon from the book of Luke about the time when God took away the priest Zachariah’s voice.

“Sometimes we lose our voice,” Cummings said. “But in those moments when our community is in crises—and the issue of gun violence is a real-time crisis—we must all speak prophetically about making peace and stopping the violence.”

You can find out more information about the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath on PICO’s website.