Metro Detroit Episcopal leaders address gun violence with new program that transforms firearms into art

By Todd Nissen
Posted Jun 19, 2024

Michigan Bishop Bonnie A. Perry blessed a saw during a press conference about a new program to turn guns into art at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Southfield. Photo: Diocese of Michigan

[Diocese of Michigan] Alarmed by rising levels of gun violence, Episcopal leaders from across metropolitan Detroit announced a first-ever campaign to take in unwanted guns, cut them apart, and then turn the pieces into artwork.

Churches in five cities — Ann Arbor, Bloomfield, Detroit, Pontiac and Southfield — as well as Waterford Township, will host six events from July through November. Gun donors will be able to drop off their unwanted firearms and have volunteers destroy the guns using specialized saws. Donors will then be invited to a “Guns and Crafts” tent to transform the gun parts into other uses such as art, rosaries, crosses and key fobs.

The initiative is being led by the Very Rev. Chris Yaw of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Southfield. St. David’s has held gun buyback programs for the previous two years, collecting hundreds of unwanted firearms and handing out thousands of dollars in gift cards.

But when Yaw discovered that many unwanted guns were ending up back in circulation, he decided more action was needed.

“This is our third year of holding gun buybacks at St David’s,” Yaw said at a June 18 news conference. “During that time, we’ve noticed it’s much easier to get a gun than to get rid of one. And the research is pretty clear that ready access to firearms increases the possibility of tragedy.”

Deadly school shootings in Oxford High School in Oxford and Michigan State University in East Lansing prompted lawmakers last year to pass several new gun safety measures.  But gun violence has persisted. This past weekend there were mass shootings in Detroit and two suburbs, including at a water recreation site where two young children were among the nine people injured.

Yaw was joined at the news conference by more than 20 Episcopal leaders from the area, including the Rev. Barry Randolph, who leads Church of the Messiah in Detroit. Randolph launched the annual Silence the Violence march 17 years ago. The event draws hundreds of people in honor of gun violence victims. He said the U.S. has 5% of the world’s population, but 42% of its guns, with an estimated 400 million guns in circulation now.

“There is something that is called, for people of God, righteous indignation,” Randolph said. “We cannot sit back and let guns be the leading cause of death of our children.”

Michigan Bishop Bonnie A. Perry said gun violence is a “uniquely American plague” that needs to be addressed by people from all walks of life and political persuasion.

Perry said the buyback events will cost $30,000 each because of insurance and other expenses. But they are important when it comes to finding a way to reduce the number of guns on city streets.

“As Christians, we believe Jesus asks us to be good neighbors, and helping our neighbors who want to dispose of guns is doing God’s work,” she said.

Perry then ceremonially blessed two saws that will be used in the events through the summer.

“Holy One — bless this saw and this saw and the hands of all that operate these saws, that they may take these weapons of destruction and turn them into plowshares, turn them into other objects, turn them into dust, where they can no longer do any harm or ill,” she said.