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United Methodists & Chicago leaders come together for community safety

Posted: November 18 2013 at 12:47 PM

Nearly a 150 people, adults and youth, gathered at Michelle Clark Academic Preparatory High School in Chicago on Nov. 16 to look at ways to address community safety in the city and surrounding areas. The summit was part of the Northern Illinois Conference (NIC) Urban Strategy plan which is addressing four areas of focus in the city: restorative justice, education and literacy, and food security. Participants represented more than 25 individual churches from Chicago and the Chicagoland area.

Bishop Sally Dyck interviews a panel of Chicago city leaders on community safetyBishop Sally Dyck led a panel discussion with representatives from Chicago’s City Hall, Police Department and Public Schools. They answered questions and opened the discussion to think of new strategies to help make our communities a safer place to live. Superintendent Gary McCarthy was scheduled to be on the panel but was recovering from a recent surgery.

Participants signed and sent him a get well card. First Deputy Superintendent Alfonzo Wysinger stepped in for him and was accompanied by Chicago Public School Chief Community Engagement and Family Officer Phil Hampton, 29th Ward Alderwoman Deborah l. Graham, 28th Ward Alderman Jason Ervin and 15th Police District Executive Officer Robert Klich along with two CAPS Community Policing Officers.

At the beginning of the event, a high school girl spoke saying she feels safe in school but unsafe walking to and from school along the safe passage route. Wysinger said law enforcement, faith leaders, neighbors, parents and community leaders need to partner together to make the city a safer place for our children. He said many kids are hopeless and don’t believe they’ll live to age 17 and some fear they will not live to even see tomorrow. “It’s up to us to give these kids something to look forward to and to give them hope,” he told the audience.

Bishop Dyck said the panelists deliver the same message delivered in Congregational Development and Redevelopment trainings. “These community safety officers are begging churches and United Methodists to get out of our four walls and engage in our communities in some significant way,” said Bishop Dyck. “It can’t just be in one church’s community. It has to be in every community and every neighborhood where there are United Methodists.”

Community Safety 2Participants broke out into small groups divided by police districts to begin making community action plans, including contacting their area police commanders and schools. Bishop Dyck is challenging every church in the NIC to adopt a school. Trainings to help build healthy relationships with schools are coming soon. Bishop Dyck hopes churches can help the Chicago School District by providing more safe havens for students by next summer.

NIC Urban Ministry Coordinator the Rev. Robert Biekman said participants are already following through with their action plans. “Those identified as conveners have been requested to meet with their pastor/congregation, local Chicago Police District Commander and CAPS organizers to continue development of their community safety action plans,” said Biekman. “At least one follow-up meeting has already taken place and another is scheduled for mid-January for churches serving the Englewood area.”

Clothesline Project

ClotheslineAdults and youth decorated and designed t-shirts with messages and drawings expressing their fears around the violence plaguing our city streets and their hopes for peace. Rev. Biekman said the leadership of United Methodist youth played a significant role in the summit and the clothesline project.

“Youth participated in the planning of this event, provided leadership during worship, participated in the plenary and shared their distinctive creativity during the Clothesline Project throughout the morning,” said Biekman.

The Clothesline Project is available for local churches to display across the conference, at district events and annual conference. If interested contact Rev. Robert E. Biekman at PassaB39@yahoo.com.

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