Saturday, April 28, 2018

Night Prayer for the City

And so the Interim Chief of the Peoria Police Department invited the pastors of all the churches on the South Side of Peoria to meet Friday noon, in the hopes that we could work together in some way to "take a stand against violence in our community. During this meeting," he wrote, "we will provide information about how the police department believes you and your congregation can assist us." So I went, one of about two dozen church leaders, directly representing about 20 congregations (and indirectly several others), who attended. The invitation went out to 50 congregations, so that's actually not that bad a response.

This isn't the time for details of what we learned, but one little detail mentioned early in the meeting by the Community Service Officer was that the busiest hour of the week for our police is Sunday evening from 10 to 11. There was a lot more, of course, and in the ensuing discussion there several who recalled the 40 Days of Prayer 10 years ago. It did make a measurable difference in the crime statistics the two years we did it, but then some of the leaders wanted to take the effort in another direction and the broad participation of the 40 Days narrowed considerably. Some of the pastors noted the many times over the years this sort of thing as been attempted. And others lifted up efforts, usually by small groups of pastors or churches, that have been going on in the area -- sometimes for years.

Chief Marion's other hope, "to form an alliance," did not happen. And as our appointed time was running out, there was wondering how to continue the conversation started here. And that's when I finally spoke up, beginning by recalling Sunday night from 10 to 11 as the police's busiest time. And while I didn't know what else would come from this gathering, one thing I was going to do was go into Zion at 10 pm on Sunday and pray for an hour. And I invited others to join me, either at Zion or wherever they were. And if anyone wanted to discuss other matters, I'd open the place up at 9:30 for conversation and getting to know each other -- for some of us, again.

And so beginning at 10 o'clock Sunday night, I'll be praying Night Prayer (the Office of Compline as found in the Lutheran Book of Worship), with additional prayers for our city; our South Side neighborhood; those who live, work, and/or play here particularly during that hour; our police and other first responders; and anything else those who join me want to pray about. The doors will be open at 9:30, and you're welcome to join me -- in body if you're in Peoria, or in spirit wherever you are. I don't know what else will come of this, but starting in prayer seems the right thing to me.

And until a better idea happens, I think I'll keep this on the church sign and keep the hour, too.

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