Lake View service a fitting end to a year of gun violence

BY MARTHA SPALDING, ELDER, LAKE VIEW PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

At the start of the 2010-2011 school year, the Lake View Presbyterian Church Social Justice Committee braced for another year of gun violence in Chicago. Far too many of the city’s youth were being lost each year, and the church wanted to recognize the names of those who were being killed. A candle was lit in worship for every youth lost. Each week the names were read, and the numbers grew. There were just too many.

But there was another story to tell, too, although it was one the media would never report. Every year for the last 40years, Lake View Academy, a program of Lake View Presbyterian Church, had been educating some of the city’s most at-risk high school students. By the time the 2010-11school year ended, more than 140 of them had graduated from the alternative high school housed in the church – and they were very much alive.

It was important, the church reasoned, not only to remember those who had been lost but also to recommit to those who were being saved. On June 29, about 75 people attended a special service to do just that. They were greeted by rows of t-shirts– one for each of the 77 young people who had been killed by guns during the school year – hanging emptily from steel bars in the church lawn.

Inside, the names of those killed by guns were read as members of the congregation carried lighted candles to the altar. It was a solemn procession that underscored the tragedy of lives lost too soon and taken too lightly.

As the candles burned lower, attention turned to the Lake View Academy students who remained. This time, a procession of members brought flowers forward as Lake View Academy teachers read the names of the 144 graduates. When they were through, the blossoms overflowed their vases and lay in fragrant disarray around the now-extinguished candles.

Building on the growing optimism, LVPC Pastor Joy Douglas Strome announced that a mentoring program for Lake View Academy students would begin in the fall, offering an additional source of encouragement and support. And, she added, the offering from the service would be dedicated to the Academy.

The service closed with the congregation singing “Here I Am, Lord,” a hymn of dedication, commitment and caring. When it ended, those lost had been remembered. Those who were full of life and possibility were remembered too. It was, in short, a powerful way to finish one year and prepare for another.

 

OUR COMMON MINISTRY

is published five times a year by the Presbytery Council’s Communications WorkGroup of the Presbytery of Chicago, the regional governing body of the Presbyterian Church in Lake, Cook, and DuPage Counties.

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