Church’s sobering gallery: Photos of mass shooting victims

Battle Creek church started hanging photos after Kalamazoo shooting spree

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — Every Sunday, the gallery has grown inside a Battle Creek church.

The walls in the sanctuary at St. Thomas Episcopal Church are filling with photographs of those killed in mass shootings from Kalamazoo to Orlando. So far, more than 200 faces stare from the walls — two full rows of photographs going around the church. They recently started a third row.

“There hasn’t been a Sunday yet since all this started that there haven’t been new pictures placed at the foot of the altar,” parish administrator and music director Stephen White said.

Rev. Brian Coleman started the collection in February on the Sunday after the mass shooting in the Kalamazoo area that killed six.

“Richard Smith right here, from Kalamazoo,” White said, pointing to a photo of one of the victims. “He was with his son, Tyler.”

The church then went back to the beginning of the year, finding every shooting across the country in which at least four people were killed.

Every Sunday, they lay the photographs at the altar, allowing parishioners to pray for the victims, before taping them up.

“More pictures go up and people say, ‘Oh, more dead people,'” White said.

He pointed out a particular set of photographs:

“Orlando starts clear back here,” he said.

On a Sunday in June, 49 photographs were placed at the church’s altar — all victims killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

“Orlando goes a long way with the 49 folks,”  he said. “It takes us all around the corner.”

Then, earlier this month, there was the ambush of police officers in Dallas — five more faces.

“We’ve got Dallas, Dallas, Dallas, Dallas and Dallas here,” White said, pointing out the photographs.

Church leaders say they are trying to send a message about love and justice.

“We’re hoping that this raises an awareness, at least within our own community here, to be kinder, nicer, more genuine, more loving to people,” he said. “It’s a wide range of ages, races, socioeconomic backgrounds, so this is something that impacts all of us.”

They also know it’s about gun control and whether Congress could do more.

“While they’re locked in whatever they’re locked in politically, we’re seeing our fellow citizens lose lives,” White said.

The church plans to keep posting photographs all year.

“They’ll continue to go all the way around and as high as we have to go through the end of the year,” White said.

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