Every time the kingdom of God advances forward, the kingdom of darkness pushes back. Yet when we allow room for God’s spirit to move among us, something good, even something beautiful, can birth out of tragedy. The way our community rallied around the owners of King Donuts through gestures like this prayer march is just one demonstration. On a personal level, I wrote this recap immediately following the march, then one week later (before making final edits and hitting “publish”) I flew to visit my then boyfriend in southern California. The relationship ended violently and threw me into a season of personal reflection and prayer. I wrote more profusely, more personally, more powerfully than ever before. I began to share that writing with sisters who had gone through similar crap and they resonated with the words. Nearly every time I share people say, “You gotta publish a book.” And that’s in the works. I will be sharing snippets on here as well. Now for the prayer march recap:
Saturday, January 17, 2015
Exactly one week ago, I met in the upstairs of a townhouse with half a dozen other millennials to plan a prayer march for south Seattle. We had in hand a half-page flyer, the blessing of two local senior pastors and the vision to pray for peace with and for our community. Around our third meeting, someone dubbed our group in a text message the “COP” (Core Organizing Planners) and the acronym stuck.
We met several times throughout the week, drawing posters, revising the schedule for the march and bathing the event in prayer. Stir for change was in the air. I imagined our setting resembling upstairs rooms of the past where a handful of change makers gathered resulting in movements that would alter history. Not to equate ourselves with monuments of history–yet–but this group of young leaders has a kind of passion and energy that stirs your soul! In between prayers and plans, we discussed topics ranging from the civil rights movement to globally uniting suppressed people groups while John Legend’s theme song from Selma played in the background.
We divided up our to-do lists and I took on notifying the Rainier Valley Post, taking flyers to the Catholic Church and creating the Facebook page. I was amazed by how quickly word spread about the march. At Rainier Avenue Church on Sunday, Pastor Peter invited our congregation to participate. That afternoon, I created the Facebook event and people began RSVPing and sharing the event immediately. By the day of the event, individuals and pages had shared the Facebook event 18 times and invited over 900 people on that medium alone. Meanwhile, people rallied to get the word out, handing out flyers and inviting friends. Both the Rainier Valley Post and South Seattle Emerald featured the prayer march on their event pages. Rainier Avenue Church created signs for the march during our Wednesday Community night that lots of families and children helped with. Having just participated in the BlackLivesMatter march the week before, upholding the value of people of color leading movements in their struggle for justice was at the forefront of my mind. During the week of preparation, I reflected on my role as the creator of the Facebook page:
“Part of me wonders in planning this march if a person of color should have been the one to create the Facebook page. I feel honored to be part of the core planning team and humbled to leave in this effort. But then it is less a movement of people of color and more a movement of people of God coming together in prayer for peace.”
Those who participated in the march reported a strong sense of unity and God’s presence. I ended up taking on more of a support role so was less present for the actual prayers and march than I had originally anticipated.
The night before the march, the COP met with Pastor Peter to make final preparations. They decided since I wasn’t leading a prayer to assign me the role of collecting money to give the owners of King Donuts. The morning of the march, I recruited another young woman from our group to help. We stood on either side of the parking lot holding open giant manila envelopes for people to drop bills into as they left the initial rally and began to march. As soon as the crowd left, we scurried into the office, counted the bills ($700!) and hurried to catch our group. We caught up with them at the first prayer stop, gathered into a grove of trees on the side of the road. Scattered among the foliage, we didn’t look like that many at all. At the next stop, we hurried across the street to the bank to exchange all the small bills for a handful of larger ones. While there, we met up with a friend who gave another generous gift. Returning to our group, Pastor Peter made another announcement reminding people to give. Another $500 came in! We hurried back to the bank and on the way ran into Marcus Green, editor of the South Seattle Emerald. He asked us a few quick interview questions then we popped inside the bank, counted quickly and ran across the street to the donut shop just as Pastor Peter was heading inside to give our gift to the owners.
With all the scurrying, I didn’t feel like I really got into the spirit of prayer the way I had anticipated. However, I believe that giving is an act of worship, just as much as prayer is. And this gift in particular was a tangible way to help our neighbors.
Who were these power planners? Dubbing ourselves later in the week as the COP (Core Organizer Planners), we represented Urban Impact, and at least 5 different churches. Demographically, the twelve of us broke down to four guys and eight women, of which seven are African American, two Asian, one Latino and two Caucasian.
I knew this week’s march would be a contrast to last week’s political protest. For one, it was a gathering of families, both literally and spiritually. Participants of the prayer march were more inter-generational than those involved in the political protest had been, ranging from babies strapped onto their parents to seniors we pushed in wheelchairs. On a community level, many participants knew each other from worshiping together, working together, living and playing in the same neighborhood. At last week’s rally, however, I felt disconnected from the other participants. Perhaps others felt less that way, but for me the rally felt like a conglomeration of passionate people who protest every other weekend as a hobby plus a few devoted to the cause who stayed to the very end, many of whom it has personally affected in a deep and terrible way. After the rally, the organizers told us to walk in groups for safety. My friends had left by that point so I tagged along with a few of the other participants, but they didn’t look back at me or acknowledge my presence. I was cold, from marching in the January rain all afternoon so ducked inside an Ethiopian restaurant. A few minutes later, a couple of women I thought I recognized from the march came in too. I contemplated approaching them and asking if that’s where they’d came from, but felt like with the rally over, we were no longer part of the same group so it would be strange to join them. Put simply, I didn’t feel the same sense of camaraderie there as I did at the Prayer March.
One of the most beautiful aspects of the prayer march was how it brought together the community of faith in South Seattle. Having volunteered with the community development team at Rainier Avenue Church for over three years, I was encouraged to see so many people from different places unite–something we’d been longing for. And participants of the prayer march represented over a dozen congregations in Seattle. As one participant said:
“I love to worship with other people from different churches…our recent sermon was about fellowship and community…this event has truly demonstrated that message I think…I am glad that we are friends even if we go to completely different churches..but we all believe in one God.” ~ Mia