In the Aftermath of Uptown Shootings of 5, Area Churches Including JPUSA Gather for Prayer Vigil
Tom Wray, our ever-patient and reliable Jesus People USA photographer (and member, along with his wife Teresa) offers these images of our neighborhood’s prayer vigil (click to enlarge if they don’t do so automatically):
As I reported in Wilson-Sheridan Shootings Half a Block from Our Doors, an assault rifle attack in front of Uptown Baptist Church near to us left five men — one whom is reportedly now brain-dead — its victims. Christians gathered at Uptown Baptist Church August 21 to pray and begin to seek an even more active role in addressing gang-related violence in our neighborhood.
A sizeable number of our Jesus People USA community attended the Vigil, blessed in spite of the grim circumstances to gather with the other local believers to pray, share, and network. According to one news service, at least 200 believers gathered to pray — first inside Uptown Baptist’s sanctuary, where we listened to UBC Pastor Michael Allen quote the encouraging and very pertinent message of these portions of Psalm 118 (see that text in toto later on) and then moved outside to break up into four groups, one on each corner of Wilson and Sheridan, to pray and sing.
My own feelings, as the skeptical-yet-believing Christian I am, were unexpectedly positive ones. More and more, it seems to me the biblical concept that “He (or she) who endures to the end shall be saved” is meant primarily as encouragement rather than warning. “Hang in there… in Me, it will all turn out right in the end.” And endurance is what we all were about as we sang. There was not one shred of hatred toward the still-uncaptured gunman and driver who committed these crimes. Rather, there was a prayerful acknowledgement that their real guilt was not created in a vacuum. As fellow JPUSA member Cynthia Clayton expressed it via a face book comment,
In Chicago, ‘gang-affiliation’ is nearly a birthright. You’re born in a neighborhood, and you’re going to have connections of some sort to the gang of that neighborhood. It’s a sad fact. It doesn’t mean that the person is ACTIVE in a gang. Bottom line is that we’ve got to do something to help raise up positive male role models for these young kids so they have alternatives. Gangs serve a purpose – belonging. They’re surrogate families. We need more organizations that give these young boys a place to belong. We need to find ways to encourage men to be fathers to their children. This is not an easy fix. It’s going to take generations, but it’s worth the effort.
Budding conversations also began among various pastors and church members about how we might network to help make Wilson and Sheridan — a “school corridor” for many students going to and from their places of learning — safe during those hours. The Alderman has worked with Chicago’s police — a group hard-pressed and understaffed — to also provide extra patrols during those hours of the day.
It was sad to learn that the man most severely wounded seems likely, according to his girlfriend, to pass away as the result of the gunshot to his head. It is reported he is brain dead. We hope that is not the case, and ask continued prayer for his family, for the other victims and their families, for all those (including a few members of Jesus People) who were nearby when the shooting occurred on our corner. One JPUSA child who saw the bloody sidewalk afterward was quite disturbed by it; we can’t imagine what it would be like to be the child of someone killed in such a manner.
We do ask all our friends and families to remember our neighborhood and Uptown and Chicago. Without being overly political, gun violence when it occurs here seems worse than ever, less about one or two gun shots and more about all-out warfare scenarios. Violence is the scream of despair too many young males are unleashing against others — often just as young. As one policeman, a young African American himself, said of a different neighborhood, “The streets are filled with ghosts. The ghosts of young black men.” In Uptown, our ghosts are all colors.
That’s where my skepticism and temptation to despair come in… yet my despair isn’t the answer. Another JPUSA member, Chrissi Helle, was walking with her very young son and turned around because she’d forgotten something at home. Moments later, the drive-by shooting happened. These are the images she offers:
My reflection on a couple nights ago. I love to write to clear my mind. If we wouldn’t have forgotten a bag and had to go back for it, we would have been right in the middle.
As I walked with my son that night, what did I see
A car pulling up down the corner from me
With each shot that popped, fire sprayed around
like the hell hounds unleashed; a body crumbled to the ground
As heaven and hell united right there
we stared in disbelief, turned and ran the other way
I watched for broken bodies and the fear on my son’s face
what happened to this world that we decide who gets the grace?
I want to wash the horror out of my sons eyes
as I wake up with images of blood and chaos, death and craze
I pray for souls that where touched that night,
through death, through hurt, through pain
for the one that pulled that trigger that night
there was nothing he could have gained.
Oh rest our souls you gracious one
do shower us with peace
In this hurt world you’re still the One
that’s why we will not cease
All major Chicago networks covered the Prayer Vigil; here is CBS 2 Chicago News footage:
Pastor Allen’s offered verses from Psalm 118 (I used the New Revised Standard Version):
1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!
5 Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.
6 With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can mortals do to me?
7 The Lord is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in mortals.
9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.
14 The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.
15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
16 the right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!
26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord.
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.
29 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.