GRAND CROSSING — Thousands of people are expected to stand in unity across 21 blocks on the South Side Saturday.
In an effort to bring awareness to the lives lost to gun violence on the South Side, the Rev. John Hannah, pastor of New Life Covenant Church, is spearheading the anti-violence “Prayer on the 9” gathering.
This is the second year the church is inviting the community to come out and pray with them. Participants will gather at 79th Street and Greenwood Avenue at 10 a.m. where Hannah will address the community and present funding to three partnering organizations.
Last year more than 2,000 people participated, many wearing red, which Hannah said represented the blood that has been shed.
Again this year, everyone is encouraged to wear red. They’ll form a two-mile prayer line along 79th Street from Greenwood to the Dan Ryan Expressway. At 11 a.m., those who have lost loved ones will be asked to step into 79th Street and lie down in an effort to demonstrate the enormity of the violence. He’s asking them to bring a photo of their loved one and hold it up during that moment of silence.
The Rev. John Hannah of New Life Covenant Church participating in last year's Prayer on The 9 event. [Provided/New life Covenant Church]
“I really want to keep the face of these people in our face,” Hannah said. “Don't let the face of your loved one be forgotten.”
New this year will be band members from Dunbar High School. They will conclude the prayer event with a celebratory march.
“After prayer, what if I can shift you and say, ‘OK, we’ve cried about them, now let’s celebrate their life, the time that you had with them?”
“It’s without question that we continue to have an issue,” Hannah said about the gun violence.
Although some may criticize the idea of a march, Hannah said it still has an impact.
“I believe there is something powerful about a large group of people screaming ‘Enough is enough,’” he said. “You don’t just want to show up at a funeral, I think you need to show up before the funeral.”
New Life Covenant Church is hosting a special anti-violence 2-mile prayer line Saturday. [Provided/New Life Covenant Church]
He said Chicago could truly see a change for the better if every church claimed its community.
“One church can’t take over a whole city, but you’re a piece of a puzzle," he said.
Because he knows the assignment God has given him, he said he’s doing all he can to better the Grand Crossing community, adding that he has already seen changes.
That means starting with the children. The church opened its new $4 million state-of-the-art day care center last May. They also have a food pantry and recently bought a food truck which the church will use to distribute free hot meals in the summer.
“We’re more than just four walls,” Hannah said.
He’s also partnering with three community organizations in the neighborhood to provide resources and services for the residents after the demonstration. New Life Covenant will donate to the organizations over the summer to provide resources for violence prevention and awareness in the Grand Crossing area
To register for Prayer On The 9, visit www.PrayerOnThe9.org. Follow the specific instructions for “individuals” or “churches/organizations” to receive block placement assignments. For more information, please call 773-285-1731.