Multimedia journalism project examines resilience through faith, prayer
Two reporters set out to mark their journey, covering every march in Chicago over 12 hot and muggy weeks.
A caravan of humanity. A people of faith. It idles on 78th Place near Racine Avenue in the warm evening sun one late-summer Friday in June.
Music blares from a shiny green SUV outfitted with loudspeakers that will lead them through South Side streets from the doorsteps of the Faith Community of St. Sabina.
A bout for the soul of the city, maybe even the bold makings of a revolution that will not be televised. In one corner stands Faith. In the other, Violence.
Which will win?
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One of my former journalism students and I set out last summer to mark their journey, covering every march over 12 hot and muggy weeks, through the elements, even as nightfall consumed the last light of day. Chronicling the hope and also the marchers’ pain —through the glaring sun and summer rain that would take this caravan of faith to perilous street corners where, just hours earlier, bullets reigned. Where the wounded had lain, felled by a shooter’s deadly aim.
Before summer’s end, this group of the faithful would come face to face with the Death Angel who came to claim even one of their own. And more than one mother would be welcomed into the unenviable club of being mother to a murdered son.
In the end, the summer’s violence would prove to be a foreshadowing of one of the city’s deadliest years on record.
But might prayer and faith work in the fight to end violence?
All summer they march. The absence of the key players in this city is as glaring as the darkened and shuttered storefront churches with grandiose names we pass along the route each week.
There is no mayor of Chicago here. No Chicago police chief. No battalion of city council members. No show of Illinois’ two U.S. senators. Not all summer long.
No delegation of concerned Illinois congressmen. No Cook County state’s attorney. No Cook County commissioner. No chief judge. No governor of Illinois. No Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
No sense that in this city, population 2.75 million, that there exists any grand urgency or collective will to work together to resolve the issue of violence.
But the question for me, amid an unrelenting storm of violence that resounds louder than any gunshot is: Where is the church?
“What makes us authentic Christians is not what we do in the church building but what we do when we leave because we have gathered,” Rev. Michael Pfleger explained.
“Church is the ‘huddle’ of the game....No one comes to a game to see the huddle but look to see what they will do when they leave the huddle to build the Kingdom of God.”
I know of no institution better equipped to save souls — even the soul of a city — than the church.
So what did all their marching accomplish?
“What I know is that it gave people hope,” Pfleger later told me. “We got so many folks thanking us. It also impacted the community with joy, love, and light amidst the darkness.
“We were able to get out information about our services, which each week would have folks come for help. It also brought some young brothers to us who wanted a change. We were able to help them, mentor them and get many jobs... Those are things I know. Only God knows what the seeds planted will harvest.”
This much I know: That I witnessed by their human presence and engagement the hand of God. And I saw in the eyes of those they touched: tears, joy, relief and gratefulness that in a city where so many do nothing to try and end this scourge called violence, the church —this church — cared enough to do something.
Indeed on hot Friday nights — in a bloody city on the verge of losing its soul — by the St. Sabina caravan of believers, the seeds of peace were sown. All summer long.
“Invasion of Faith: Faith vs. Violence” is a multimedia journalism project by John W. Fountain and Samantha Latson, a graduate journalism student at Indiana University. The project may be viewed in its entirety at www.invasionoffaith.com
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