There was an epidemic of violence.
In 2008-2009 school year, more than 500 of Chicago Public School students had been shot; many of them were killed. It was something that the city had not seen before. Or at least something we had not seen a very long time. It seemed that all of a sudden our young people were not safe even when they were not in the “wrong place” at the “wrong time”. It shook a lot of ministries to the core; especially youth ministries. We had to something.
On March 30, 2009 twenty people met in a living room in the Kenwood community. They gathered to discuss an idea that had been in several of their minds for a long time; the idea that through an organized mobilization effort, the church in Chicago, the people of Chicago could bring peace in place of violence in the city streets. They gathered to discuss the possibility of a peace campaign for Chicago, whereby the church could MAKE PEACE HAPPEN.
The meeting in Kenwood was profoundly diverse. There was a range of ages (from nineteen years old, to sixty-eight years old). There were grandparents, parents, and children; a college professor, and a former gang banger. There were pastors, students, business people, and a community organizer. This group agreed to go to work, to organize a campaign that would mobilize people to seek the peace of the city, to MAKE PEACE HAPPEN.
On Saturday, April 25 (just twenty-six days after that living room meeting), more than 200 people gathered at Chicago Embassy Church in Englewood at the first organizing meeting for the Chicago Peace Campaign.
The campaign launched that summer, targeting three communities with five core activities:
• Peacemakers Peace Projects – These service projects served as deterrents for violent behavior.
• Beautiful Feet (Door to Door Canvass) – “How beautiful are the feet of those that preach the gospel of peace” (Romans 10:15). This initiative trained volunteers to become street pastors, becoming a positive, consistent presence in the streets.
• Peaceful Speech – We used various communications to spread the message of peace throughout the city.
• Pray for Peace – We organized a prayer network in Chicago to call on God for peace.
• Friday Night Lights (Outreach) – This effort became the flagship of the campaign. FNL was a street outreach that took place in rough neighborhoods on Friday night. We simply filled spaces that were susceptible to violence with an active peace.
Under the leadership of Bishop Edward Peecher, Chicago Embassy Church spearheaded the work in Englewood. Joel and Paula Hammernick of Sunshine Gospel Ministries (along with their dynamic team…Dave Clark, Pete and Nikki Blodget, Sarah Murphy and others) held it down in Woodlawn. And Pastor Phil Jackson of the House Covenant Church in Lawndale led Peace Campaign efforts in that Westside community.
By the end of the summer, things seemed to be moving in the right direction. The culture and environment in the small pockets where the Chicago Peace Campaign was active seemed to begin to change. In the Englewood police district, the Commander confirmed a precipitous, 15-point drop in violent crime. MAKE PEACE HAPPEN – was a reality.