On August 19th hundreds of Chicagoans gathered in Douglas Park for the Chicagoland United in Prayer event. Organized by a variety of the city's Christian Leaders, this event called for members of diverse communities to come together in prayer for the City of Chicago. The event was organized by a myriad of religious leaders and organizations including Pray Chicago, Latino Ministries Alliance, Chicago Prays and Chicago Peace Campaign. In an interview with Apostle Ed Peecher of the Chicago Peace Campaign, we gained insight on the vision and goals that he and other organizers had for this project.
"The vision and goal was to have as many active church members - across denominational, ethnic, and geographic lines, to lay aside those differences between us and concentrate on the stronger connections we had which is our connection to Christ as His Body in the City of Chicago, xand our common burden for the welfare for the city, and our common faith in the power of prayer."
Saturday morning hundreds of community members, young and old, began this event with a prayer walk from their designated areas to Douglas Park. The walks began at 10 am from three different locations: Marshall High School, Lawndale Christian Health Center and Saucedo Academy. As they walked down the streets of these neighborhoods, many carried signs with the name of the communities they represented. This included members from Roseland, South Shore and West Garfield Park, along with 74 other communities that were represented that day.
Upon arriving at Douglas Park, people gathered in front of an outdoor stage, quickly filling the seats positioned in the grass. As they entered the park, members also carried large handmade crosses some of which had community names written on them, and others adorned with the names of community members who lost their lives to violence. Crosses, along with some of the neighborhood signs, were placed at the head of the stage. Dr. Walt Whitman and The Soul Children of Chicago led the formal worship service. All across the park, smaller prayer circles were formed, as individuals were moved to engage in corporate prayer.
"During the actual prayer time in the park - I saw unity that I had not seen before. I have been heavily involved with several citywide prayer initiatives in the past, but I sensed a spirit of unity more at this prayer gathering than any of the previous gatherings. Some were larger than this one - but none had the oneness of this one." - Apostle Peecher
After the scheduled prayer time had ended, the celebration of unity and the "spirit of oneness" continued. In addition to food trucks arriving, school supplies were handed out to the younger attendees in preparation for the new school year; there were also immunization services for students.
This display of community and support for the City of Chicago comes at a time when many are blinded by difference. However, the tremendous number of people who participated and spread the word about this event, is evidence that there is a resounding need for this type of union in Chicago. When asked about the plans for the future, Apostle Peecher made it clear that this is only the beginning as he and other leaders continue to pursue the goal of oneness and unity for Chicago and its people:
"We, the planners of this gathering, are already in full swing planning for a Soldier Field gathering next July 14. Ultimately my expectation is for a greater connection between congregations in the city, so that the Church in the Chicagoland area begins to operate like one single unit."