"Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us; The old men have left the city gate, the young men their music." Taking those words from the Book of Lamentations to heart, St. Anna's Episcopal Church New Orleans is working with the New Orleans Police Department to replace guns with creative outlets for the city's youth.
Bishop Charles Jenkins of the Diocese of Louisiana explains that "Horns for Guns," a twist on gun buyback programs, "was born out of St. Anna's mission to the musicians [of New Orleans] and is really a youth mentoring program."
All citizens are invited to turn in weapons, and St. Anna's offers programs, including a mobile medical unit, to aid all ages. However, "Horns for Guns" targets young people between the approximate ages of nine and 15, according to the Rev. William H. Terry, rector of St. Anna's. In effect, he says, guns purchase a range of services including voice, instrument and photojournalism lessons; therapy groups for grief and anger management; and life skills workshops.
"Some of New Orleans greatest native artists are behind this program because it offers an opportunity for New Orleans to save herself and her musical and artistic heritage," says Terry. "[These artists include musicians] like the world renown Kermit Ruffins, Deacon John, whose own son was murdered, younger talents like Derrik Tabb and groups with names like the Hot 8 Brass, Rebirth Brass, and Mardi Gras Indians. It gives us hope. A violent city has been besieged by disaster and flood waters making her violence all that much more intolerable.
"The police advise that we could recover as many as 300 guns. Our target therefore is 300 spots for kids … the number of kids [who are] eligible runs into the hundreds [but] resources now available will limit us to 300 or fewer kids.
"This may be a program worth doing annually," Terry continues. "We will test the waters and much will depend on the degree of support that we receive locally and nationally. This takes a lot of work and funding. The potential benefits are beyond comprehension. We will have to see what the Holy Spirit has in mind."
Deadline for donations of new, lightly used instruments is September 3. Instruments or monetary donations should be sent to St. Anna's Episcopal Church, 1313 Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70116.
Jenkins has asked Louisiana parishes to "please consider a special collection on August 17 at your services to allow for your parishioners to participate in this important ministry."