Difficult to put into words the devastating loss of 30 people primarily to gun violence on the streets of Southwest Philadelphia so far this year. In a heartfelt effort to begin to bring healing into the lives of victims’ families and in the devastated neighborhood, 30 mourners gathered at the annual CityLights Vigil for Victims of Violence on Saturday, December 14.
The mourners gathered in prayer at The Common Place, 58th Street and Chester Avenue. Following a light meal, the somber gathering was led in a memorable opening prayer by Rev. Cean R. James of Grace Christian Fellowship and words of support by Rev. Christopher J. Holland, II of New Spirit Community Church. Rev. James is also director of CityLights Ministry based at The Common Place.
A very special moment was provided by Darlene Wilson-Sistrunk who shared the continuing grief she and her family bears for her son, Justin Wilson, who was struck down by gun violence. Now the mother of a social worker daughter and teacher son, she lamented the burden that God places on us when loved ones are struck down and hoped that Justin’s story would inspire healing and comfort for others.
The assembly then formed into small groups and fanned out to locations in Southwest where violence claimed a life during 2019. The groups were provided with a Litany of Vigil Remembrance which was recited each time in a circle of prayer by the small group members. The special objects of the prayer were the victims and their families and all who suffer from violence. Included were those in our broader community who suffer loss and prolonged grief.
Of special concern as well were the dedicated first responders, police officers, firefighters, and Emergency Medical Team staff “whose duties bring them into the streets, the lobbies, the malls and the homes where the carnage of violence takes place, day after day.” The praying friends petitioned for “divine support, courage, compassion and sound judgment as these brothers and sisters risk their lives and their serenity as they rush to our aid.”
The final words of supplication to the God of Justice were that the entire community be empowered to change our broken world and protest these and all other deeds of violence that cause needless death and wounding. “And make us all instruments of God’s peace!
At the conclusion of the site visits, the mourners will return to The Common Place for a time of meditation and reflection on the meaning of their experiences.
Thanks to Capt. Scott Drissel, Officer Arnold Mitchell and administrator Katrina Giddings the 12th Police District put together the sad list of victims and the location of where the crimes took place.
This year’s remembrances included the spot on Redbird Place near Finnigan’s Playground. where Isiaka Meite was killed and five others gunned down in the mass shooting at a graduation party on Fathers’ Day weekend.
To find out more about the services of The Common Place and CityLights Ministry, visit www.thecommonplacephilly.org or phone 267-275-8238.