"Since (the Los Angeles riots in) 1992, there has been an increasing interest among congregations in the prevention of all aspects of community violence," observes the Rev. Ginny Wagener, executive director of the South Coast Ecumenical Council. Increasingly, she and others say, anti-violence organizations are turning to churches for support.
Two diverse programs at Southland churches illustrate the growing readiness of congregations to grapple with violence and the toll it takes on their communities.
The Clothesline Project is holding an exhibit and survivors' shirt-painting bee from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. today at First Missionary Baptist Church in the Antelope Valley. Airing society's dirty laundry in public, as it were, the Clothesline Project encourages survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse to paint messages on T-shirts, which it strings up on clotheslines for display in public places. Not unlike the AIDS quilt project, this grass-roots secular organization uses political art to help heal victims and educate the public.
Survivors color-code their shirts according to the kinds of violence they have endured. (Families of dead victims are invited to memorialize loved ones on shirts.) More than 15,000 shirts have been painted in the United States. The first national Clothesline Project exhibit--5,600 T-shirts--will be held on the mall between the Washington and Lincoln memorials in Washington, D.C., April 8 and 9.
Taking a more buttoned-down approach to spreading the word about violence, the "Not Even One" Project is inviting clergy and laity to a symposium at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 26, at the Bay Shore Community Congregational Church in Long Beach. Conceived at the Carter Center in Atlanta as part of its interfaith health program, the project tailors scientific methodology to individual communities trying to end gun deaths of children and youths. The project takes its name from the center's consensus that "Not even one child's death from firearms is acceptable or inevitable."
Local religious leaders such as the Rev. Romie Lilly, who has worked with the Carter Center on the project, see houses of worship as appropriate places to mobilize against violence. "The Bible says, 'Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God.' It's as simple as that," he declares. "The faith community needs to be in the leadership of campaigns against all kinds of violence."
Lilly is the executive director of the Southern Area Clergy Council. "Up to now," he says, (minority) communities have not had a voice in how information on the death of children by firearms is collected and reported. We're proposing a multidisciplinary public health model of investigation. We hope to empower our communities to make decisions that will stem the epidemic of violence."
Besides Lilly, the Rev. Fred Smith of the Carter Center will speak at the symposium.
In contrast to that interfaith project, the Clothesline Project didn't originally plan to organize through churches. Nevertheless, according to Jean Morrison, a coordinator of the fledgling Los Angeles-San Fernando Valley connection to the "international clothesline," the link is a natural one.
In the greater Los Angeles area, Morrison said, "we have concentrated our efforts in shelters for battered women, trauma centers and women's groups. Our kickoff event in Antelope Valley is the first one in a church. But," she added, "we have received tremendous support from churches in other parts of the country--especially from the Unitarian Universalist and Lutheran Churches, which have specific mandates to work on issues of violence against women.
"With proper handling by trained clergy and lay people, a church can be a very supportive place to work out these problems--in cases where they can be worked out," she said.
The Rev. Henry Hearns is enthusiastic about his church hosting the project. "People really need to know that the church is no longer a place where everybody needs to come in 'right,' " he said. "You can come in any kind of way and walk out right. We have a special kind of healing to offer the victim of violence and the person who is violent. We want them both."
First Missionary Baptist Church is located at 37721 N. 100th Street East, Littlerock. Shirts painted or brought there today will be part of the Washington, D.C., Clothesline Project exhibit. For information, phone (310) 212-7766 or (805) 265-7389. Bay Shore Community Congregational Church is located at 5100 The Toledo , Long Beach. For information about the symposium or "Not Even One" phone (310) 595-0268.
* The Rev. Jesse Jackson will speak on "America's Conservative Shift" at 11 a.m. Friday at the School of Theology at Claremont, sponsored by the Pan African Students Association and the Office of Black Students Affairs. Admission is free. (800) 626-7821, ext. 291.
* Tamara Cohn Eskenazi, professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and a former president of the Society of Biblical Literature-Pacific Coast Region, will speak on "Terror and Hope: Reading Biblical Narratives Today" from 11:40 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. Tuesday as part of the college's Founders' Day. The public is invited to the free lecture. (213) 749-3424.
* Using information gleaned from the Dead Sea Scrolls and other sources of the time, University of Michigan scholar Gabriele Boccaccini will lecture on the new theory of "The 'Twin Births' of Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity from First-Century Judaisms" on two occasions: 8 p.m. Monday at the School of Theology at Claremont and 8 p.m. Tuesday at the University of Judaism. Her talk is presented by the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center. For registration information, phone (310) 476-9777.
* Father Sean McDonagh, a debt-crisis specialist and the author of "To Care for the Earth," "The Greening of the Church" and other books, will deliver Loyola Marymount University's 1995 Casassa Lecture, entitled "How Equitable and Sustainable Are Present Day Development Policies?" at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the university's McIntosh Center. For a free reservation, phone (310) 338-7663.
* Four speakers will be highlights of "In Defense of Families, Religion and Freedom," the 13th annual Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation conference to be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 25, at the Sheraton Anaheim Hotel. They are: the Rev. Robert J. Levis, a theology professor at Gannon University and Franciscan University; Jacqueline Kasun, a Cal State Humboldt economics professor specializing in population; Bruce Herschensohn, a fellow at the Claremont Institute, and the Rev. Rawley Myers, a parish priest, author and editor. The public is invited. Members of the clergy and religious orders and students are admitted free to the talks. For registration information, phone (714) 838-5289.
* A prominent international religious scholar, Raimundo Panikkar, will deliver two lectures on "The Contribution of Religion to the Culture of Peace." At 4 p.m. Monday he will speak in the Davis Lounge of the School of Theology at Claremont. At 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, he will lecture in Murphy Recital Hall of the Fritz B. Burns Fine Arts Center of Loyola Marymount University. Both talks are free. (909) 626-3733 or (310) 338-5118.
* A two-part seminar by Regina Boisclair, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday evenings, March 23 and 30, will explore the Gospel of Luke and Acts as they are used in the Lenten season. Phone the Institute for Christian Ministries of the University of San Diego for registration information. (619) 260-4784.
* Brahms' "A German Requiem" will be sung at 4 p.m. Sunday at St. Alban's Episcopal Church. A choir and orchestra will perform under the direction of James Vail. Organist William Beck, soprano Elin Carlson and baritone Robert Shacklett will also perform. Admission is $7, $3 for seniors and students. 580 Hilgard Ave., Westwood. (310) 208-6516.
* The symphonic psalm "King David," with music by Arthur Honegger after the drama by Rene Morax, will be presented by the Westwood Presbyterian Chancel Choir. Actor-director David Birney will narrate and Donn Weiss will conduct. 10822 Wilshire Blvd., West Los Angeles. $5 suggested donation. (310) 474-4535.
* The premiere performance of Ami Aloni's "Tastes of Spain," a service featuring Sephardic melodies, Hebrew text and Flamenco music, will be presented at 8:15 p.m. Sabbath eve services Friday at Temple Judea in Tarzana. Cantor Fran Lawson will sing, accompanied by choir, guitar, piano and percussion. Admission is free. 5429 Lindley Avenue. (818) 987-2616.
* "Sing a New Song," a concert of original liturgical music written by local composers and conducted by Christopher Walker, will be presented at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 25, at St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church, 1900 S. Prospect Ave., Redondo Beach. Tickets are $7.50 in advance, $10 at the door, to benefit the participating parishes, with a portion allocated for a music scholarship. (310) 216-0035.
FOR THE RECORD
In last week's Southern California File, an item about the "St. Joseph's Table" feast and celebration Sunday at St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church gave an incorrect address for the church. The church is located at 870 W. 8th St., San Pedro.
Southern California File welcomes submissions by fax to (213) 237-4712 or by mail c/o Religion Editor, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053. Items must be brief and arrive at least three weeks in advance of the event announced. Please include a phone number, date, time and full address.