Carlton Briscoe sat in the mahogany pews at the venerable Mother Bethel AME Church in Society Hill on Sunday, as he normally does.
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But on this particular Sunday, the Rev. Mark Tyler's sermon really hit home.
The message was not about miraculous healing or overcoming improbable odds. It was about breaking the cycle of violence in the black community, a topic ignored in many churches despite what has become an epidemic.
Tyler's message was part of "Gun Violence Prevention Sunday," being marked by more than 100 congregations nationwide.
Tyler preached about Moses, the Old Testament prophet who killed an Egyptian for beating one of his Hebrew brethren.
"Moses had to learn this cycle of violence could not be ended with violence," said Tyler, who grew up in Oakland, Calif., in the throes of gang violence.
"If you want to break the cycle, you have to get a new model," he urged.
Briscoe was among a few dozen people who had lost loved ones to gun violence and who went to the altar for a special prayer for healing. Briscoe in the past three years has lost a nephew and a brother to violence.
"We didn't even let our kids play with guns," Briscoe said afterward.
"When we came up, a good fistfight would settle it," his wife, Mikelle, added. "What they're doing today is downright murder, and they're murdering their own."
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