Written by Felice Barrett
Have you ever wondered “why we march”? Some people question the value of marching in the present day, believing that marching was an act that was only effective during the civil rights era. Yet even today, we see demonstrations of people marching for justice and truth all over this country. For the last three decades, marching has played an integral role in St. Sabina’s ability to help transform the Auburn Gresham community.
Father Michael Pfleger has made it his mission to not only demonstrate St. Sabina’s service to the community by leading Friday night marches in the streets, but to explain in various media why we should march. Media excepts are found in weekly bulletins, past Praise Reports, bible study tapes, press releases and radio transcripts. As St. Sabina embarks on its 100th year of ministry, we understand that activism and outreach are integral to the mission and vision of St. Sabina.
Father Pfleger simply states “we do what we do because it is biblical.” The book of Genesis testifies that we are “created in the image and likeness of God” and we are given the responsibility to “fill the earth and subdue it.” As disciples of Christ, Pastor goes on to say “Our task is not to coexist with the evil of this world, but to control it as co-creators with God.” We must take our God-given responsibility and become stewards of the universe. For the Faith Community of St. Sabina, this universe begins right outside the doors of the church. We can’t shift the blame to others to clean up our streets, we have to stand up and take control ourselves.
In order to understand further why we march, envision a community that is clean where legitimate businesses are thriving and it is safe for children to play outside. A place where citizens have the courage to confront the dangerous and evil factions of their community for the common good and where the spirit and presence of God illuminates the darkness. A place where all the citizens including those in authority are treated with love and respect. A place where peace is the focal point.
Because these marches are so important, St. Sabina encourages the marchers to be attentive and purposeful. To encounter the community with a smile and kind words of love and peace and to provide literature and information about available outreach resources. Ultimately, the marchers should expect that their actions will lead to change.
Throughout the years, the Auburn Gresham community has seen the fruits of these marches. Hotels and non-compliant businesses have been shut down. In their place, businesses like Walgreens, Walmart, Catholic Charities Social Services, Bank of America and BJ’s Restaurant have made their home. What used to be a hot bed for gang activity, is now the center for the Peace Basketball League. And there are many other local resources for community area residents as a result of years of marching.
As a model for other communities, the Faith Community of St. Sabina demonstrates that members can come out of their pews and church doors to care for their surrounding community. “Our congregation extends beyond the four walls of the sanctuary,” said Father Pfleger. “Our congregation is the community.” This is an affirmation that by serving the community, we are serving the Lord!