It’s a snowy and picturesque Christmas in St. Louis. For many, this is a wonderful time of gift-giving and family gathered in joyous celebration. Sadly, however, it is also a difficult time for families who have recently suffered the loss of a loved one. This is especially true when it was a young person taken too soon – whether by accident, disease, overdose or violence.
In our region, a large and growing number of such deaths take the form of gun violence and opioid overdose. St. Louis City has suffered 203 homicides this year – the highest since 1995 – on a population base that is 20% smaller. This includes last Friday’s horrific triple shooting of three young women: Reeba Moore (25), Dominique Lewis (24), and Chanice White (24). Overdose deaths will exceed traffic fatalities in Missouri for the first time, stealing more than 300 lives from St. Louis City and County combined.
These alarming numbers are symptoms of broken lives in broken communities. Here at the St. Louis Reconciliation Network (STLRN), our Christmas Wish for St. Louis is that 2018 would mark the year when true healing begins. We believe that God has the power to bring such healing, but it will only really begin when people of faith obediently answer the call to action.
We at STLRN seek to heed this call, and 2017 was filled with wonderful opportunities to connect with others who share our passion to help heal our region – especially its broken race relations. This included the first annual “HeARTS for Racial Reconciliation,” our Jn17 class on multiethnic conversations held at Central West End Church, and the second annual “Race for Reconciliation,” this year held in Tower Grove Park. Many new cross-cultural relationships were kindled.
And 2018 is shaping up to be even busier. We have already scheduled two Jn17 classes for early in the year: Assumption Parish in O’Fallon MO (St. Charles County) and First Presbyterian of Ferguson. Even more exciting, we’re partnering with a St. Louis City Public School (Compton-Drew) to create a new version of our training that is suitable for 7th graders. The textbook is Wash U professor Jason Purnell’s report, “For the Sake of All,” so we’re calling the class #STL4ALL and can’t wait for it to start, on January 16.
On February 10, we’ll hold the second annual “HeARTS for Racial Reconciliation” – again at STL ArtWorks – but changing the format to increase interaction and allow everyone to learn more about our work and how to participate. We’re also reaching out to STL ArtWorks about a mural idea, Corda de Memoria (Latin for “Hearts of Remembrance”), as a way to honor the far too many young St. Louisan’s that are losing their lives – and also to serve as a public place for gathering those who seek the healing that our region so urgently needs.
Our personal wish is that 2018 is a year in which each of you is filled with increasing joy as you answer the call to become a vessel of this healing balm.