DALLAS, TX — With 40,000 Americans dying from gun violence last year, Presbyterian Deanna Hollas became the first-known Minister of Gun Violence Prevention on Sunday July 7. Sponsored by Grace Presbytery, which represents the congregations of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in north and northeastern Texas, the service of ordination was held at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Hollas’ home congregation.
“In the last 100 days, 10,000 Americans have died from gun violence and 22,000 have been injured,” began the preacher for the service, the Rev. Dr. Clay Brantley. “Deanna’s call is a sign of the great persistence and wisdom of God.”
In her new call, Rev. Hollas will serve as the Coordinator of Gun Violence Prevention Ministries of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, serving a network of over 800 local Presbyterian gun violence prevention advocates in all 50 states. “With all the gun violence in our country, it is easy to lose hope and ask: where is God? But I am hopeful,” said the newly ordained Rev. Hollas. “I see God raising up so many people and churches to study and speak out and work towards ending the violence that is plaguing our nation. Change is coming. ”
Hollas holds a Masters of Divinity from Perkins School of Theology and a Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction from San Francisco Theology Seminary. In addition to her work as a Dallas gun violence prevention activist, she is co-founder of Retreat House Spirituality Center in Richardson, TX which is a covenant community of spiritual directors. Her husband Chris Hollas and children Eleanor, Emily and John joined her at the service.
Presided over by Rev. David Schaefers, the Moderator of Grace Presbytery and a special ordaining commission, the ordination service included traditional elements such as the serving of communion, the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” and the participation of Deanna’s Presbyterian parents, Dr. Richard and Sharon Morgan of Plainview, Texas. At the same time, it also introduced a new hymn about gun violence prevention, “If We Just Talk of Thoughts and Prayers” by Presbyterian Rev. Carolyn Winfrey-Gillette (text below). Many Dallas-area members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense were present and wore their distinctive red color. Representing the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Rev. Jan Orr-Harter presented Hollas with an orange stole, in the color of the nation-wide gun violence prevention movement. The stole included faces of children, a reminder of the lives at stake in our nation.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has called for its members to study and engage in dialogue and action on ways to prevent the growing epidemic of gun violence from murders, suicides, accidents, mass shootings and family violence. For over 50 years, the denomination has supported action on concrete measures such as Universal Background Checks, starting in 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Gun violence is causing too much grief and sorrow for the church to ignore,” said Rev. Margery Rossi, Chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Working Group of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. “I rejoice that God has called Deanna to use her gifts to help us change. Rev. Hollas is, to our knowledge, the first and only clergy person in the nation ordained to this ministry. She brings vast experience to this work as a spiritual director and a gun violence prevention activist. We look forward to the results that her ‘energy, intelligence, imagination and love’ bring about in the church.”
If your congregation needs help or encouragement with this work, contact Rev. Deanna Hollas of the PPF Gun Violence Prevention Ministries at deanna@
Founded 75 years ago, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship is a nation-wide community of Presbyterians who act on the nonviolence of Jesus Christ to find alternatives to violence and war. For more information, contact Executive Director Rev. Emily Brewer at info@presbypeacefellowship.
If We Just Talk of Thoughts and Prayers
(Sung at the Ordination of Deanna Hollas)
A Hymn by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette
Tune: O WALY WALY 220.127.116.11
If we just talk of thoughts and prayers
And don’t live out a faith that dares,
And don’t take on the ways of death,
Our thoughts and prayers are fleeting breath.
If we just dream of what could be
And do not build community,
And do not seek to change our ways,
Our dreams of change are false displays.
If we just sing of doing good
And don’t walk through our neighborhood
To learn its hope, to ease its pain,
Our talk of good is simply vain.
God, may our prayers and dreams and songs
Lead to a faith that takes on wrongs —
That works for peace and justice, too.
Then will our prayers bring joy to you.
Permission is given for free use of this hymn in local churches.
This hymn was written after the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.