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Learning to Lament

How my church's violent neighborhood led us to discover the power of lament.

"The murder capital of the U.S."

That's the dishonorable distinction my city earned last year when the FBI reported that Chicago had passed New York for total number of homicides. It is strange to live with this violent label. Most days we go about the work of business, school, and church. The threat of another young person's unnecessary death fades behind life's regular pleasures and distractions. But then the phone call or text message or social media update brings news of another death. Suddenly the long sad story behind another murder emerges, the details similar to and different than every other story for which our city has become known.

On a recent Saturday, while beginning our monthly prayer walk around the neighborhood, a church member pointed to a makeshift memorial beside the street. Candles marked the spot where a young man had been gunned down earlier in the week. I looked down the street from the memorial to the park district gym where our church ...

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