Houses of worship across the United States are separated by many things: culture, religious denomination, style of prayer, theology and language. We’re also separated by demographics and location, even in the same town.
I believe it was DC’s former police chief Isaac Fulwood who noted that 10 a.m. on Sunday is the most segregated hour of life in the city. Of course, many things have changed since Fulwood’s tenure in the late 80s — and Jews, as well as some other religious communities, don’t hold their biggest weekly worship on Sunday. But his basic point remains.
The relative segregation of our lives and our worship communities means that, in cities like the District of Columbia, some communities mourn violent deaths with terrible regularity while others, in the same city, remain largely unaffected.
It has been one of my deepest prayers that we can find ways, in our various worship communities, to ensure that our worship reflects the welfare of our own city, specifically, while never losing cite of our wider place as citizens of the world. One place we must start, I continue to believe, is for every house of worship in the city to acknowledge the violent losses of its citizens, even if those lost and their primary mourners are not members of the congregation.
In this past week, the District of Columbia has been bereaved of the following individuals through homicide:
- June 26 1200 block of Raum Street, Northeast
23-year-old Kevin Cortez Johnson, of Southeast, Washington.
- June 28 1600 block of E Street, Northeast
33 year-old Darrell Michael Grays of Northeast, Washington, DC.
- June 29 Unit block of Galveston Place, Southwest
25 year-old Rodney Delonte Davis, of Manassas, Virginia.
We are still in the 30-day period of mourning for these individuals, lost to homicide:
- June 8 5100 block of Southern Avenue
21-year-old Qur’an Reginald Vines of Southeast, Washington, DC.
- June 10 (after June 3 injuries) Gallaudet and Kendall Streets, Northeast
57 year-old Anthony Ray Melvin of Clinton, Maryland.
- June 13 3200 block of 23rd Street Southeast
54 year-old Kenneth Fogle of Southeast, Washington, DC.
- June 13 2300 block of 15th Street, Northeast
44 year-old Donald Franklin Bush of Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
- June 14, 5200 block of Central Avenue, Southeast
26-year old James Brown of Northeast, Washington, DC.
- June 17 1300 block of Orren Street, Northeast
25 year-old Larry Michael Lockhart of Northeast, DC.
- June 17 3300 block of D Street, Southeast
28 year-old Antonio Lee Bryant of Southeast, DC.
- June 18 800 block of 51st Street, Southeast
42 year-old Brian Sickles of Southeast, Washington, DC.
- June 18 1300 block of 5th Street, Northwest
26 year-old Patrick Shaw of no fixed address.
- June 19 3600 block of Calvert, Northwest
53 year-old Joel Johnson of no fixed address.
- June 20 (after June 16 injury)
16 year-old Malik Mercer of Clinton, MD (former 10th grader at Ballou SHS in SE).
- June 23 (after June 21 injury) 2200 block of H Street, Northeast
26-year-old Arvel Lee Stewart of Northeast, Washington, DC.
- June 23 1200 block of Holbrook Terrace, Northeast
19 year-old Heineken McNeil of Southeast, Washington, DC.
- June 24 at the Tidal Basin
20 year-old Deante Tinnen of Southeast, DC.
- June 25 16th & Galen Streets, Southeast
21 year-old Stephon Marquis Perkins of Maryland.
I personally struggle — as someone who spends much of her time east of DC’s Anacostia river, often worships in the more affluent Northwest part of town, and lives in between — with how far removed some prayer gatherings can seem from the realities of my town.
I know my experience in the District of Columbia is repeated countless times across the country in other locations. And yet the prophet Jeremiah instructed
Seek the welfare of the city where [you dwell], and pray to THE ONE on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.
Gates of Prayer (a Jewish prayer book of the late 20th Century) reminds each of us to “realize that [our] prayers are also the prayers of the one by [our] side.” But I worry that we don’t do enough to ensure that our prayers are also the prayers of those living and working side-by-side with us the rest of the week.
Michelle Obama reminded us, when she spoke in 2013 about the shooting death of Hadiya Pendelton in her (and my) original hometown, that the perpetrators, too, have frequently experienced violence “every single day” of their lives. (See also “Stragglers.”)
And so, I pray — and ask that others join me:
We pray for those lost recently in our town, for their families and friends, and for all affected by the act of violence.
We are stumbling and deserving of rebuke for every life lost to violence, direct or indirect, in our own town. Teach us to recognize ways in which the life of our town does not honor the humanity of all who dwell and sojourn here. Make us particularly sensitive to scourges of racism, poverty, and gun violence. Enlighten our eyes to ways more in tune with the spirit of divine love.
Keep us especially mindful: when young people suffer injustice or die in violence, it is the elders who have failed. In honor of the many who do not thrive or survive, help us redouble our prayers for justice and peace.
If you’re joining in private or congregational prayers for those lost in the District of Columbia, please add a word in the comments. Then share this message.
If you’re joining in private or congregational prayers for those lost in your own city, please add a word in the comments. Then share this message.
If you have additional resources to share, please do so.
If not now, when?