Sunday, June 21, 2015

Marching In The Shadows

Most of the time this blog is all about packing shoebox gifts for children around the world through Operation Christmas Child.  Today, though, I want to talk about a meaningful opportunity I had today to participate in the All Lives Matter March.

I grew up in Wesleyville--a small suburb of Erie, PA--in the 1950s.  I attended Wesleyville School where students in grades K-12 were all together in one building with about 50 in each grade.  We had no school buses because everyone in our small community walked to school and there was no cafeteria because we all went home for lunch.

As I recall, there were two African-American families in Wesleyville, so there were only a handful of  kids "of color" in our school and I was in high school before one of those families came to attend our church.

I'm still trying to overcome those 'white' beginnings.  I know racial reconciliation is important but I find I'm still too often segregated in my daily life.

Last week I volunteered for the fourth year at a week-long camp hosted by our Erie City Mission for middle schoolers.  The camp was held in an inner-city public school and in our week together I worked with six students and five adult volunteers to produce a newspaper.  

Yesterday I was mulling over the week's experience and wondered what effect it had.  No kids prayed with me and I can't even say their writing improved over the week.  What did happen, though, is that 11 people from different countries of birth, from different areas of our city, with different skin colors, and with ages spanning from 11-62 came together to create an artistic production.  We became a team, and maybe that was the effect.   Maybe the most important thing was just being together.

Today, my husband and I joined a few hundred others on this Father's Day in a silent march to affirm that all lives matter--a march to bridge racial barriers and unite to end violence in our community.

We formed a long line on the city sidewalk and trudged along--walking quietly and prayerfully through some declining neighborhoods and over a major highway toward Shiloh Baptist Church.  As our shadows stretched ahead of us I thought of how we were walking in a very small way in the shadows of marches that took place a half century ago.  How much progress has been made in those fifty years?  

When we arrived at the church we filed in and crammed the pews, then the worship experience began.  It wasn't my first time to worship in an African-American church but it was one of only a handful.  Looking at the mixed crowd, the pastor leading the service said, "Wouldn't it be great if every Sunday was like this?" and he was answered with rousing applause.

Various members of the community--victims of violence, business leaders affected by violence, politicians, the district attorney, and a captain from the police department--came one by one to offer remarks and each was followed by a clergyman or layman offering Scripture and prayer.

Two hours later we were nearing the end.  The pastor called us to the altar--no, insisted we all come to the altar--to join in prayer for our community.  It was really moving to join hands with African-American brothers and agree in prayer, begging God to do what only He can do among us.

I won't be here fifty years from now, but if God tarries that long I hope there won't be any need for marches against violence in our city.  I hope there won't be racial division that necessitates calls for unity.  I hope we'll make progress.

At least tonight we made a start.

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