Almost 1,000 people gathered inside our church for our Wednesday-night prayer meeting. The shouts from protesters outside competed with our prayers. "Racist, sexist, antigay, born-again bigots go away!" The chant was relentless. The mob was angry and growing more agitated. People splashed red paint on the sidewalks. They waved signs bearing deadly threats. I didn't know if the night would end without violence.Our church, Armitage Baptist in Chicago, had been their target for months.Our presence on sidewalks outside the city's abortion clinics—telling pregnant women about alternatives to abortion—raised the hackles of an array of radical groups. Now ten groups had amassed on our doorstep, including Queer Nation, seditionists Refuse and Resist, and Sister Serpent, an occult group. Our church was one of a dozen targets across the nation that night in 1994, on the anniversary of the shooting death of Florida abortion doctor David Gunn. When we discovered a few days before that we would be a protest target, we acted swiftly."We will have a concert of prayer on Wednesday night," I told our congregation on Sunday. "We'll pray for our nation, our city, and for the demonstrators."My friend James Meeks called to offer his support. James is pastor of Salem Baptist Church, a large African-American congregation across town. We had become good friends in recent years. A black pastor and a white pastor find a lot of common ground ministering in the city.We shared stories and encouragement, pulpits, and even some church attenders. James had been very supportive of our work in this drug-infested, gang-driven neighborhood. It would be no different this wild evening.As the protesters raged on, a school bus screeched to a halt on Kedzie Boulevard, ...1
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