I had a great time with some young people from Canada, Nigeria, Guatemala, Tunisia and Hong Kong on Saturday.
Niagra Christian Community of Schools (NCC) is a Brethren in Christ affiliated primary and secondary school in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada. It has a very diverse student population and a really good choir. I spent the day with them on Saturday and I had a blast because these kids are awesome. Proof of their awesomeness is that they weren’t afraid to bless the city of Philadelphia with some joy songs (as seen in the video above)- singing their hearts out in the middle of Center City!
Their leader, Julie Willms, got connected to us through the Brethren in Christ denominational network. I didn’t meet her until the other day, but we were already family because we’re Brethren in Christ. She asked me to help her plan the day. We did some historical and touristy stuff but the meat of our time together was a performance at Tucker House a nursing home in Philadelphia’s Poplar neighborhood and a prayer walk I designed to help the kids engage with the “big stuff” that affects our city.
It was easy to do because there were so many compassionate things that Circle of Hope is involved in. I walked through the neighborhood and easily dreamed up things to pray for and ways that Circle of Hope was engaging them.
1) We prayed at Tucker House for those who live there and worked there, for those without healthcare and for those who make laws about healthcare.
2) At 11th and Wallace, in a vacant lot we prayed for the Land Bank and the work of our pastors, Jonny Rashid and Rachel Sensenig with Take Back Vacant Land coalition. We prayed that profit would not be the only driver in our city’s redevelopment. We prayed for children to experience nature and for homes for those without them.
3) At 11th and Mt Vernon, the site of demolished Ruffin Nichols Memorial African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, I told them about the history of Richard Allen and his followers and we prayed about the continuing institutional racism and for the revitalization of our churches. I told them here that they were a demonstration of what God can do to bring us together. They are so diverse and they literally spend time in harmony. If God can bring them together, then God can continue to bring others together as well.
4) At 11th and Spring Garden we looked up the street to Gaudenzia House- An Addiction Rehabilitation Center- we prayed for those suffering from addiction, for the Narcotics Anonymous group that meets in our space at Broad and Washington an we prayed for those caught up in drug trafficking.
5) At 10th and Spring Garden we visited the Closed Collisimo’s Gun Shop (and the “Gun Academy” that survives next door). We celebrated the victory of Heeding God’s Call, a coalition of faith groups that put public pressure on a gun shop that was notorious for selling guns that ended up being used in violent crime. Circle of Hope members still participate in Heeding God’s Call an we prayed for their continued efforts. We also prayed for the families of the 70 people who have died from gun shot wounds in Philadelphia this year (as of March)
5) At 10th and Callowhill we looked west toward the State Building, a possible site for a new Casino. We talked about the motivations for gambling and the argument that gambling is a legitimate source of state funding of underfunded social programs (like Tucker House for one). I shared with them the work that Circle of Hope had been involved with in hopes of stopping Sugar House. We prayed against the Casino’s success and we prayed that our own treasures would be stored in heaven.
6) Our last stop was at 10th and Pearl where I encourage the kids to care about all of these big things because in engaging our hearts in the impossible hope for change of these big evils we exercise our citizenship in the Kingdom of God. Just like the Pearl of Great Value in Matthew 13, the work of calling the world to The Way is very costly but the alternative is deadly an not near as beautiful.
Here’s our prayer for Hope and for God’s will to be done On Earth (in Philadelphia, in Fort Erie, Ontario and all the places all over the Earth) as it is in Heaven
Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come;
Thy will be done;
In Philadelphia as it is in heaven- (call out other places we want God’s Kingdom to come)
On Earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil;
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
forever and ever. Amen!