Faith in Action: The Journey of Centre County’s Interfaith Coalition for Gun Safety (IC4GS)

“The Centre County Interfaith Coalition for Gun Safety is an alliance of local religious leaders and community members committed to building a peaceful society free from preventable gun violence. With faith-based responses to gun violence that benefit the whole community, we educate on issues related to gun safety, take action for responsible gun ownership, and engage local, state, and federal officials.” - Centre County Interfaith Coalition for Gun Safety (IC4GS) Mission Statement

As of August 30, 2023, there have been 479 mass shootings in the US this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. This persistent threat of gun violence has many seeking to take action. Gail Guss and Karen Moser, members of the State College University Baptist and Brethren Church (UBBC) in State College, PA, took this challenge head on and developed the Centre County Interfaith Coalition for Gun Safety (IC4GS) which continues to serve its community and address gun violence in the country.

Guss and Moser both wanted to do something about the growing threat of gun violence, but neither knew where exactly to begin. “I ordered some books to read, but that’s just something you do at your house. It’s not as satisfying,” Guss stated. Taking action, Guss, the Chair of the Board of Missions, and Moser, the Director of Christian Education, first approached the UBBC Board of Missions to propose a plan for addressing gun violence. However, they received little feedback and changed direction. Guss recalled her positive experiences with the State College Interfaith group and decided to use a similar model, culminating in the Centre County Interfaith Coalition for Gun Safety (IC4GS).

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Affinity Group Information Sessions

On July 18 and 19, community leaders joined information sessions on Zoom to learn more about On Earth Peace’s most recent initiative: Affinity Groups. Melia Hawthorne Klingler, OEP’s Gun Violence Prevention Intern, and Anesu Makufa, OEP’s Organizing Fellow, inspired these leaders to think about prominent issues in their community – gun violence, housing crises, mental health – and create groups dedicated to making tangible changes.

Affinity Groups are defined by a shared affinity or identity (i.e., mothers, members of the same congregation, students at a specific school, etc.) and a focus or issue (i.e., gun violence, climate change, Christian Nationalism, etc.). Together, these groups actively promote nonviolence and change the conditions that lead to violence in their communities. Affinity Groups are not simply book clubs, support groups, prayer circles, or venting outlets (although they may include these purposes). Rather, they act as catalysts for nonviolent action.

On Earth Peace first decided to adopt the Affinity Groups initiative after noticing that the organization’s constituency was so widespread, making it difficult to organize direct action. “Affinity Groups seemed like a great way to connect different OEP members with one another and work more locally,” says Klingler.

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Intern Spotlight: Sydney Goldsborough

Sydney Goldsborough as OEP's Social Media Organizer. Sydney has recently finished her master's degree in Consumer Behaviour at Goldsmith's, University of London. She reflects on On Earth Peace's impact on her life during her internship.


Why are you drawn/applied to On Earth Peace?

I was drawn to On Earth Peace because I was really interested in understanding the nature of non-profit organizations. The mission of OEP also stood out to me considerably as I was particularly interested in exploring kingian nonviolence practices. Prior to joining, I had a couple friends who were interns for OEP and they spoke so highly of the organization and about how much they’ve grown in their roles, which also encouraged me to apply even more so. 

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June 2023 Gun Violence Prevention Campaign Meetup

6/16 Gun Violence Campaign June Meeting

-Melia Klingler, OEP organizing intern 

On June 16, 2023, people from all over the world (from Belgium to Indianapolis to Palestine) logged onto Zoom for the monthly On Earth Peace Gun Violence Campaign Meeting. Though different ages, backgrounds, and locations, all present were looking to build community, capacity, commitment, and courage for the fight against gun violence. 

The meeting began with a time for people to share their experience with Wear Orange. June 2nd was National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Everytown USA led the movement by inviting us gun violence prevention advocates to wear orange as a sign of public support (Read more about the campaign background here).  On Earth Peace joined this national initiative and we were blown away by the different ways “OEP people” took this invitation and adapted it to the needs of their community. Linda Himes from La Verne Church of the Brethren (CA), created a display in the narthex of her church to remember the deaths of those killed by gun violence, encourage people to pray for the families of victims and provide resources to help prevent similar tragedies in the future. Mary Ryan Hotchkiss and Karen Moore from the Spirit of Grace Church in Beaverton, Oregon, held a forum on gun violence and discovered many groups in their community willing and ready to collaborate on gun violence prevention. “Once you start doing things, it multiplies,” they rejoiced. 

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Intern Spotlight: Anesu Makufa

Anesu Makufa serves as OEP's Youth & Young Adult Peace Formation Organizer and is a Zimbabwean Spoken Word Poet who seeks peace where he is present with an Ubuntu mindset. After completing his International Baccalaureate studies at the United World College of Southern Africa, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in Psychology and Business Management from Wheaton College, and a master's degree in Education and Human Development from The George Washington University. Currently based in the UK, Anesu is working on attaining a master's degree in Social Work, and Community development. He is a creative soul wandering the earth, experiencing it through poetry, painting, piano, and, most importantly, through people. Additionally, he plays the guitar, harmonica, and is fluent in 3 languages (Shona, English, and Meditation). In another life, he may have been a koala. He reflects on On Earth Peace's impact on his life during his internship.


​​Why are you drawn/applied to On Earth Peace?

I am drawn to OEP by its determination to organize for peace, its active role in seeking justice, and its engagement in constructive conversations on difficult topics. In our world today, Growing up in Zimbabwe, I was raised in a collectivist culture, with the philosophy of Ubuntu as a cornerstone of community. Ubuntu teaches you that "I am, because you are", that we become who we fully are by pouring active love into one another. When I joined OEP, this part of my soul resonated with the organization, its goals, and the people who worked to build community by broadening bridges instead of widening walls. 

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