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Church anti-bullying push follows gun incidents

ESSEX, Md. (BP) –– “Enough is enough,” the crowd, mostly wearing blue shirts, chanted at an anti-bullying rally on the front lawn of First Baptist Church in Essex, Md.

The “B3 Code Blue” rally was in response to a shooting at Perry Hall High School about 10 miles from the church and a gun incident at Stemmers Run Middle School about a mile away. Both gun-bearing students had been repeatedly bullied.

“The B3 stands for ‘Before Bullying Begins,'” pastor John Smith of FBC of Essex said. “‘Code Blue’ represents responding to an emergency and this is an emergency.”

Teens stood alongside Mace Avenue in front of the church waving anti-bullying signs as drivers shouted out encouragement and beeped their horns in support. About 100 people attended the Sept. 13 rally. Most heard about the event through word of mouth, others saw flyers at their schools.

Church leaders worked long hours contacting potential speakers and preparing to host the rally just 48 hours after the gun incident at Stemmers Run.

In addition to Smith, rally speakers included Gordon Webb, principal of the middle school, and Tally Wilgis, pastor of Captivate Church. Several other Stemmers Run school officials and local politicians attended and local television stations and local papers covered the event.

“Tragedy pulls us together,” Webb said. The principal said the school is partnering with FBC Essex and with the community to find ways to stop bullying and make the community a safer place.

Smith told listeners the rally is just the beginning.

“We are going to take action steps. This is not a ‘flash in the pan,’ but a marathon. This will be an ongoing ministry of First Baptist Church Essex. We won’t quit until bullying stops,” the pastor said.

Smith called for “blue Thursdays.” “We have purple Fridays [for the NFL Baltimore Ravens], why not blue Thursdays?” In addition to showing solidarity against bullying, it will be much more difficult for a bully to pick on someone if a group of students, all in blue, come together to defend the victim, Smith noted.

The church also started a B3CodeBlue Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/b3codeblue), which will act as a forum and offer a place to share resources, activities and events. The page received 130 “likes” in less than a week. There will be a tip line, where students can share about bullying anonymously and school officials will be alerted. A B3CodeBlue website is being developed and nonprofit organizational status is in process.

Smith also called for “safe houses,” places where kids can go to escape and be in a safe, nurturing environment.

Bullying is a longstanding problem, but it’s different now, Smith said. Students are bullied at school, then instead of coming home to welcoming safe environments, they may be bullied at home. When they try to escape online, they find they’re bullied there as well.

“Bullying isn’t about prejudice,” Smith said at the rally. “It’s about respect.”

Smith said Jesus was bullied, but He conquered it. He rose from the dead.
Sharon Mager is a correspondent for Baptist Life (baptistlifeonline.org), newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.

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