Traveling to the Southside

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Traveller, the path is your tracks
And nothing more.
Traveller, there is no path
The path is made by walking.
By walking you make a path
And turning, you look back
At a way you will never tread again
Traveller, there is no road 
Only wakes in the sea.” 
― Antonio Machado

Participating in the kickoff rally and march Friday night was fun, exhilarating, comforting, and heartbreaking. This first-time experience for me was buffeted by friends and fellow travelers. The presence of Beth Brown, Joe Morrow, David Neff, and members of their congregations allowed Presbyterians to say, “We’re here!”

We marched in areas of the city where lives have been taken and children have been killed by gun violence. I learned that the presence of these marches on Friday nights during the summer, create safe space for the community. Kids come out to play. There is rope jumping, ball throwing, laughter, and smiles. Just showing up brings peace to troubled communities.

The most moving moment of the rally was the reading of those killed in Chicago from gun violence from June 2021 to June 2022. They only read the names of those under the age of 17. It took four readers to speak the names of the 62 children lost. Each reader then ended with the name of their own child who was killed. Heartbreaking.

Every step we took in the march was in the bounds of the Presbytery of Chicago. As I listened to the pain and passion of the rally and then walked the streets of the Southside, I was acutely aware that I would be preaching in North Shore churches over the next two weeks. These churches, too, are in the Presbytery of Chicago. How can the presbytery become a platform of connection for these two different worlds that desperately need one another? As a connected church, how can very different areas and communities relate to one another?

Our connectional church is what Presbyterians bring to the conversation. The brilliance and depth of our resources when properly applied can make a difference in Chicagoland. May we have the courage to step out on this new path. May we be willing to become travelers from the North Shore to the Southside, from the north suburbs to the Westside. May we create new pathways, back and forth, sharing, learning, and loving what it means to be the family of God.

Rev. Craig Howard