This evening there was a prayer meeting in Meacham Park, a candlelight vigil, a moment for a community to mourn.
The small church just off Milwaukee Avenue, Douglass Church of God in Christ was packed. It was standing room only, men rising to give their seats to ladies that were standing. All seeking to collectively mourn, to pray, to raise a voice to God.
"If the people can't call on the church in time of need, who can they call on?" One of the pastors asked this rhetorical question in response to why ministers of different denominations, even a Muslim minister, came together to say to a comunity, "we acknowledge your pain, your frustration, your sorrow. We are here to pray with you, to lift our voices to God."
Over and over were scriptures and messages that something good would come out of this. There were reminders that the history of Meacham Park was that it was settled by the children of former slaves, by those who worked for nothing to enrich people of a different color. There were reminders about the strength it took to carve out a little piece of home and society in a patch of pasture in St. Louis County. There were generations represented in the room, some who went away to school, like Cookie Thornton, but came back to devote their life to their community.
I sat there among the people drawn from many neighbors, a few white faces seated in the crowd, and felt hopeful. I applauded the brother who drove 20 hours from Brooklyn New York with a message of love and hope. Meacham Park will move past this. The brother acknowledged that his brother was killed at a city council meeting, he felt compelled to share a message of hope. His speech came after one by one acknowledgement of sympathy and sorrow rang out for each of the victims.
Healing will come. There were expressions of sorrow for the slain police officers, one of whom was acknowledged as having tried to bridge a gap between the two communities. Expressions and prayer for recovery for the mayor and the reporter rang out. Kind comments and remembrances about the lone female victim, Meacham Park grieved for the Kirkwood city officials. It was poignant in a way.
The night wore on with ministers admonishing them to be careful how you treat each other because you never know what is behind the smile. "The pretty woman at the post office whose husband beat her that mornng could just snap our rudeness," was an example by one of the ministers. It made the room pause to think about the bank clerk, the cashier, the waitress, people that may be dismissed by society. There was a call to walk in love even with a community that didn't want to love a small section of itself except for its land. Yet, there was still hope that they could bring people together, that they could "build-create-grow."
Finally, there were comments about Cookie Thornton. He was remembered for reaching in his pocket to give money to people, black or white. He was remembered for his goodness, his laughter, his commitment to better the lives of his neighborhood. He only went to city council meetings 4 times in the year, not the many times the media claimed. Just over 10% of the time he went and was only given 3 minutes to defend his business, his land. The city tried to take his home, the city was guilty of defrauding many Meacham Park residents of the true value of their homes. I sat next to a women whose entire extended family was displaced. I was shocked that the Sonic on the corner of Big Bend and Lindberg/Kirkwood Road was her aunt and uncle's home. They were only given about $3000 for their memories, the city claimed it wasn't commercial property, then turned around and zoned it commercial, making millions. There is understandable distrust and disappointment about the discrimination that has occurred over the years. Yet, for this night, a community came together and prayed. They prayed for the people who lost their lives, they prayed for the families left behind, they prayed for the community.
People were proud to say they came from Meacham Park, that is was not the "bad" side of town as Kirkwood tried to claim pride in Jeremy Maclin the MU football star and product of Meacham Park. The Thornton family, nine siblings, all educated, all raised by a mother who instilled in them a love for the Lord, a love for family, a love for community. The community wants to heal and to survive and to fend off the greed of point-of-sale commercial development that covets the land that is their heritage. Yet tonight, a people came together and prayed.
God is watching. The world is watching. The children are watching. And the people are ready. There is power and healing in prayer according to 2Chronicles 7:14. "If my people, who are called by name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sins and heal their land." Tonight a community turned their face toward God and prayed.