SALT LAKE CITY — A prayerful procession led by some 60 Episcopal bishops traveled through downtown Salt Lake City on Sunday morning calling for an end to the "unholy trinity" of poverty, racism and gun violence.
Hundreds of people, many of them taking part in the Episcopal Church's 78th General Convention, walked from the Salt Palace Convention Center to Pioneer Park, joining in song and prayer. Utahns from anti-gun violence groups and civil rights organizations also took part.
"We are here because that unholy trinity threatens the life of us all," said the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church.
"But we are really here because there is another trinity. There is another trinity that is not an unholy trinity. There is another trinity that is a holy trinity. It is a life-giving trinity."
The procession was led by Bishops United Against Gun Violence, an ad hoc group of Episcopal bishops who seek to reduce incidents of gun violence and advocate for policies and legislation that save lives.
Utahn Carolyn Tuft, one of nine people shot during the siege at Trolley Square on Feb. 12, 2007, addressed the rally. Tuft's 15-year-old daughter, Kirsten Hinckley, was one of five people killed at the shopping mall that day.
Tuft said she had been given three minutes to speak at Sunday's rally and she wondered how to tell her story in such a short period of time.
"And then I realized it only took three minutes to completely change and devastate my life forever," she said.
Tuft said she was the first person shot inside the Cabin Fever card shop.
"The last thing my daughter ever said to me was 'Get down, Mom,'" she recalled. "My lung was blown out, the back of my arm was gone and I was lying on the floor bleeding profusely."
The gunman, Sulejman Talović, reloaded his gun and pushed its barrel into Tuft's back and shot her again. He put the gun to her daughter's head "and shot it while I watched. From the point we parked the car to the time we were shot and my daughter was dead was three minutes."
Tuft lives with more than 100 gunshot pellets in her body. They leach lead into her blood, which slowly poisons her and causes constant pain in her bones, she said.
"I am here because I don't want anyone else to feel this way," she said. "This is not just about me and Kirsten. It's about you, protecting you from being the next one."
Tuft said she has been told the outcome of the mass shooting could have been different if she had been carrying a gun.
"I'm telling you right now, if I would have been armed with a gun, there's nothing I could have done to change anything. The outcome would have been exactly the same," she said.
"There was no time to react. There was no time to even understand what was happening. Everything happened so fast. This is why we need a conversation. This is why we need to come to common ground. Carrying more guns is not the solution."
The Rt. Rev. Scott Hayashi, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, is also a gunshot victim. When he was 19 years old, he was shot in the abdomen during a robbery of the record store where he worked in Tacoma, Washington.
The events took such a toll on his father that his hair went gray during the then-teenager's recovery.
"I watched it go gray from the hospital bed and almost wished I'd died so he did not have to go through that," he recounted.
Each time he reads about another incident of gun violence, "it hurts my heart deeply," the Rt. Rev. Hayashi said.
"I am hoping and praying that by us being together and making a witness, perhaps we can start the conversation that has not been had across the country, the conversation to bring all people together to say, 'We need to simply stop,'" he said. "Responsible gun owners do not want their guns used in this way. We don't want it because God values every human life, because every human life matters. Today we make a witness to say, 'Let us be the people that will speak out and make this happen in our country.'"
The Rt. Rev. Ed Konieczny, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, was previously a police officer in Southern California. Stories of gun violence victims "are not just their stories; they're our stories because we are brothers and sisters in Christ," he said.
It is time to tell new stories, he said, "because the stories that are dominating our world and our society are not the stories of love and the love of Christ and peace of our Lord. They're the stories of a hurt and broken world, a world that is wandering and lost. Once again we need to reclaim who we are as disciples and children of God. It is up to us to do something about it."
Katrina Hamilton, from the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, Washington, said she took part in the procession and rally, which began at 7:15 a.m., "because I think it is important for our church to be vocal about what matters to us."42 comments on this story
Asked whether Sunday's events were a call to action, Hamilton replied, "The gospel is a call to action. We are always called to action. What we are doing here today is pointing out a specific thing that needs action."
Hamilton said Presiding Bishop-elect Curry's statement that "black lives matter because all lives matter" particularly resonated with her.
"There are people in his country that are being systematically slaughtered," she said. "That is a call to action. This is one way we can address that. One way we can address that is to look at the means they are being killed and say, 'How can we address that?'"