Monday, April 7, 2008

Nine Deaths, Seven Days and Prayer

Sometimes numbers are fun like 21 or 7/11. Sometimes numbers are special like the number 3 as in the Trinity. However, sometimes numbers can be incredibly sad. Such as 9 homicides in 7 days or six homicides in 30 hours. And those are the numbers that describe the Fort Wayne experience this past week.

I write about so many tragedies around the world and yet this week we are a center of suffering. So what can be done in the face of so much suffering and loss?

In our community religious leaders have come together. They recognize the problem is too big, the pain too powerful for any one congregation to handle. The Peace and Justice Commission of the Associated Churches of Fort Wayne have formed a prayer response team. The team invites members of the larger community to join them as they gather for “Heal the Land Services.” This past weekend they met at four different locations, the locations of six of the murders.

So what does the group do? They form a circle, join hands and they pray. They remember the fallen, the families and they reclaim the land, the site of such ugly violence, they re-claim it for God.

Does it make a difference? You’ll have to ask the participants, the families of the fallen, the larger community. I know neighbors feel supported, remembered and not labeled.

Two years ago there were two horrible murders within a short distance from our home. I would walk my dogs past the homes and the area felt defiled, people crossed the street, people crossed themselves. There were memorials at the front and back of the houses. Then the land was reclaimed, in prayer, for God. The houses are still the sites remembered for one horrible day and yet they are not avoided. Perhaps prayer had nothing to do with it, perhaps it is the change that comes with the passage of time. However, time would not help neighbors and families feel supported when they most need it. Time would not alone remind the larger community that the slain were more than young people caught up in criminal behaviors. Time would not have reminded us that the slain were the children of mothers and fathers. Prayer binds us together and right now our community needs to come together.

So we pray.

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