When orange is ok

I am making some orange stoles. This was not in my original plan for the week, but it happened almost by accident (as so many gun-related detours do).

A friend and colleague [update: the Revd C Eric Funston tells the story here] posted a call to #WearOrange on June 2nd, to raise awareness of the public health crisis that is gun violence in this country today. Being a clergy person and general church geek, he wanted to find an orange stole to wear on the following Sunday, June 5th.

“I can make that happen,” I thought. Followed swiftly by, “Let’s make this happen!”

So he shared the details to our local clergy Facebook group, along with my promise to make as many orange stoles as people requested, as best I can. I went on out and got some yardage of likely-looking orange cotton fabric, remembering at the last minute to factor into the measurements that I should make myself one, too.

In the meantime, we shared our plans more widely, and invited others to join us. The response that I have seen has been mostly low-key, with a few enthusiastic adopters, and a little caution. I get it, both ways, I do. But I also feel compelled to step into this challenge.

I went to a Faith & Health Collaborative meeting this morning, where the rather wonderful co-founders of the movement, God Before Guns, gave a presentation to inform our further conversation.

They are not anti-gun-ownership, they said, nor anti-2nd-amendment; although they do consider that all of the amendments should come second to God and God’s commandments; hence the name.

I took some notes. In our little county alone, they have found, so far this year there have been at least 47 gun-related deaths, 20 of them people under the age of 30. In our county, the suicide:homicide rate is roughly 1:2, which is the reverse of the national trend. I do not know what to make of that. We are on track to meet or to beat 2014’s numbers (the last year for which data is complete and available), which came to 150 gun deaths for Cuyahoga County, and 1,211 in Ohio as a whole. There are an estimated 310 million guns at large in America today. Since 1968, the year that I was born (coincidentally), roughly 1,516,863 people have died in America of gun violence [I updated the numbers I heard this morning via PolitiFact].

That is over 100,000 more people in my lifetime than have died in American wars since 1774.

That is a lot.

I came back to my church and sat in a lunch meeting with a bunch of other pastors. One couldn’t come, because of a funeral for a young person who died of gun violence this past weekend. That’s one too many.

The word “despair” came up more than once this morning. People of faith should have something to say to that.

I was taught, long ago and far away, that the liturgical colour “green” really means “all of the other colours,” so I am not worried about offending the church calendar by wearing orange. The #WearOrange folks chose the colour that hunters wear to avoid getting accidentally shot after it was adopted by young people on the south side of Chicago to remember their fallen friend, whose death was no accident, but a symptom of a public health crisis that is plaguing that city and our own.

This orange stole is not a statement that I want you to see me. It is a plea and a penance and a proclamation: that we have something to say about this, we people of faith. That we have something to say to the violence of death and destruction. That we have seen, and noticed, and that we are not unchanged, unturned, unmoved, we who are alive.

Updated August 2019: unfortunately, the need for “orange awareness” has only increased since this post was first published. More recent reflections include:










About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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18 Responses to When orange is ok

  1. Pingback: Wear Orange Sunday, June 5, 2016 | That Which We Have Heard & Known

  2. Tom Momberg says:

    Rosalind, I’m a priest in Memphis and a member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. I served a congregation in Kansas when Eric Funston was there. Is there any way you have another orange stole?

  3. Pingback: Wearing Orange for Gun Violence Awareness | Episcopal Cafe

  4. Pingback: Bishops group urges Episcopalians to wear orange on June 2 | The Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana

  5. Pingback: Action – not just talk – is needed to counter threat of gun violence | EDOMIresolutions

  6. Pingback: Bishops tell why they will wear orange on June 2nd | Episcopal Cafe

  7. Pingback: Episcopal clergy go orange against gun violence – Religion News Service

  8. Pingback: Episcopal Clergy Plan to Wear Orange on June 5th to Protest Gun Violence – New America Today

  9. Pingback: Episcopal Clergy Go Orange Against Gun Violence – Sojourners

  10. Pingback: The call to #WearOrange | over the water

  11. Pingback: Episcopalians #WearOrange to raise call for action against gun violence | The Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana

  12. Pingback: Episcopalians participate in first National Gun Violence Awareness Day | Episcopal Cafe

  13. Pingback: Episcopal Clergy Go Orange Against Gun Violence | Religico

  14. Pingback: Episcopal Clergy Wear Orange In Stand Against Gun Violence - Urban Christian News

  15. Pingback: Don’t Be Afraid (throw the hymnal) | pastorjodi

  16. Pingback: Why I’ll Wear Orange on June 2nd - Episcopal Diocese of Washington

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