Osborn Helps Bring ‘Swords to Plowshares Northeast’ to Guilford
As a volunteer with Swords to Plowshares Northeast, retired Rev. Mary Anne Osborn is humbled to help Christ Episcopal Church bring this powerful, hands-on program to the Guilford public on Sunday, June 26. During live demonstrations, the metal of bought-back guns, broken into pieces, is literally heated, hammered, and forged into beautiful garden tools and jewelry.
“The Episcopal Church has always been proactive in trying to prevent gun violence,” says Mary Anne. “Swords to Plowshares Northeast is something that retired Bishop Jim Curry began years ago, and it’s a fabulous opportunity for parishes and other organizations to take advantage of.”
A retired bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, on June 26, the Right Rev. James E. Curry will preach at the 10 a.m. service at Guilford’s Christ Episcopal Church. Following the service, at 11:30 a.m., he’ll take up a position at the forge set up in the driveway beside the church at 11 Park Street for a demonstration that will include allowing participants to try their hand at hammering on the anvil, reshaping the heated metal of a former gun into a work of art with a useful purpose.
“He’ll preach during the service, and our liturgy will reflect our prayers, and then our event out in the parking lot will reflect our action toward bringing gun safety to reality,” says Mary Anne.
Non-profit Swords to Plowshares Northeast’s website (www.s2pnortheast.org) notes Curry is a co-founder of the organization, as well as a founding member of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a contributor to the anthology “Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace,” a board member of Mothers United Against Violence in Hartford, and a member of the advisory board of the Newtown Foundation.
“His role in the organization is to serve as head of operations creating the tools that are the final output of the group,” the site further notes.
In addition to volunteering with Swords to Plowshares Northeast, Mary Anne has been an active member of Guilford’s Christ Episcopal Church parish in years when she hasn’t been serving as a priest at other churches. After 36 years, Mary Anne recently retired. Her most recent position was with Christ and The Epiphany Church in East Haven as priest-in-charge, and prior to that, with Church of the Holy Trinity in Middletown, and before that, with Christ Episcopal Church in Middle Haddam. Mary Ann lives in Guilford with her wife, the Rev. Joanne Neel-Richard, who’s also an Episcopal priest.
The Power of Swords to Plowshares
Mary Anne has experienced the power of Swords to Plowshares Northeast demonstrations, and knows what it feels like to take a turn with the hammer at the anvil. She explains Curry gets guns from gun buy-back events, breaks them down and brings their pieces to the demonstration, together with his portable forge and two anvils.
“It’s really an amazing feeling when you see those guns go into the forge and they come out red hot, go straight to the anvil, and you take a hammer in your hand, and you pound on that red-hot gun piece and see it shaped into a garden tool,” she says. “It’s literally transformed under the pounding of your own hand. It’s very powerful.”
People can also take a turn pounding a piece of former gun metal into a little heart that can be worn on a necklace.
For his part, Curry’s skill as an artist is extraordinary and very apparent in the garden tools and jewelry he creates.
“Even the wood of the garden tools is made from the stock of the guns,” says Mary Anne.
On June 26, gardening tools and jewelry will be available for purchase. The event is family-friendly, free, interactive, and open to the public. Its goal is to raise awareness about “how we can transform violence into peace in our culture, and the need for peace,” says Mary Anne.
“And when you feel that in your body, when you feel that pounding, or you even just see these guns get transformed, you see the hope that’s possible when there’s so much hopelessness,” she says.
As one with a passion for social justice, Mary Anne says her faith has helped fuel her efforts to help reduce gun violence.
“For me, faith is certainly an aspect of my gun violence prevention passion,” she says. “Because I believe so strongly that all people are sacred and that we are all created as sacred creatures of God. So that’s much of what motivates my passion for gun violence prevention.”
Sadly, she also has a personal connection to gun violence. Her nephew killed himself with a gun at age 14.
“That’s how I got into this,” she says of volunteer groups she has joined to help end gun violence. “I got into it through Moms Demand Action [for Gun Sense in America] at first, and then Swords to Plowshares came along. And I am committed and passionate about how we see this transformation, because I think it’s so important to have that hope of transformation, and have it reflected in what Swords to Plowshares does.”
The June 26 demonstration should offer a fulfilling and thought-provoking opportunity for those who attend, especially from the community of Guilford, a town that has learned that actions can be developed to help reduce gun violence.
On June 8, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Protecting Our Kids” gun control bill, a part of that bill included Connecticut’s Ethan’s Law, created through the efforts of Guilford’s Song family and supporters. Ethan’s Law requires loaded or unloaded guns to be properly stored so they can’t be accessed by anyone under the age of 18. Ethan Song was 15 years old when he died in 2018 after accidentally shooting himself with a gun left in a box at a friend’s home.
“Having been hit so hard as a community, Guilford is very, very supportive” of working to end gun violence, says Mary Anne.
And, with the recent, horrific events of the Uvalde, Texas, elementary school shooting just last month, gun violence is, once again, “a palpable issue right now,” says Mary Anne, adding more legislative action is needed.
“What can you say that hasn’t been said?” she asks of the senseless student deaths. “I think what is so heartbreaking and so devastating is that we have the opportunity, and we have had the opportunity, to make a real difference legislatively, and we are so on the precipice of that. We see the House, just [last] week, voting for Ethan’s Law and voting, for instance, to limit the sale of assault rifles and large-scale magazines—and it’s going to get stuck in the House again. So these mass shootings, which are actually only a small percentage of gun violence deaths, we can do something about them, and we don’t.”
According to the most recent data available from Centers for Disease Control (CDC), suicides continue to account for the majority of gun-related deaths in the U.S. In 2020, 54 percent of all gun-related deaths were suicides (24,292) while murders accounted for 43 percent (19,384). Remaining gun deaths recorded by the CDC in 2020 included 535 unintentional deaths, 611 involving law enforcement and 400 of undetermined circumstances.
The bottom line is that gun violence happens due to having access to guns, says Mary Anne.
“It’s the guns; it’s the availability of guns. It’s so much more about guns, I think, than we want to make it,” she says. “Guns are so accessible, and more so than ever, and the Senate refuses to do anything about it, when the large majority of this country wants to make a change.”
“And that’s where it’s so discouraging, but we continue to fight, and we continue to have hope,” says Mary Anne. “That’s where Swords to Plowshares, I think, keeps the hope going. We keep pounding the hammer on the anvil, and we keep pounding our feet on the pavement, and we keep working at it.”
Christ Episcopal Church presents Swords to Plowshares Northeast, a family friendly, free, interactive event outside the church, 11 Park Street, Guilford, on Sunday, June 26, 11:30 a.m. (immediately following the 10 a.m. service). Free refreshments. For more information on Swords to Plowshares Northeast, visit www.s2pnortheast.org. For further event details or questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.