On a brisk October Saturday in 2012, hundreds of teenagers, young adults, and youth leaders gathered at Battery Park in Manhattan. In earlier days, the historic public park facing New York Harbor was the first place to receive immigrants from Europe and elsewhere. But this morning, it received members of black and Latino Pentecostal churches nestled throughout Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. The crowd donned T-shirts and jerseys proclaiming God Belongs in My City (GBIMC). They were embarking on a rolling prayer meeting that would make its way from the southern tip of Manhattan up to Times Square.
The youth were not tourists. They did not gape at architectural landmarks like the Flatiron and Empire State along the way. Instead, they sang and laughed as they walked and talked, texted, and tweeted about their journey. Many stopped to scribble GBIMC and John 3:16 in chalk on the sidewalks. They walked the city with purpose and possibility. They knew where they were going.
They intermittently bowed their heads and lifted their arms, blessing and praying for "this great city," for "the unity of the church and the city," for "the government and leadership," and for Mayor Michael Bloomberg. They prayed for public officials and city employees, especially for teachers, firefighters, and police.
A sister contingent of New York youth started from Central Park up in Harlem. A few hours later, the two groups met in Times Square at the TKTS discount Broadway ticket booth. Cheers, prayers, and improvised signs went up as the youth watched themselves on a giant video screen overlooking the bustling median. Now one entity, they moved eastward to Grand Central Terminal.
The few hundred ...