Chicago Pilgrim Walk
Photo/Alison Brookins

Krista Dutt, MCC Great Lakes Chicago Program Coordinator and Church Relations Associate, helped to organize and participated in the Chicago Pilgrim Walk on October 13–15, 2017. Over 50 people joined the walk to end gun violence. Twelve walked the entire 35 miles through the five police districts that experienced the most gun deaths in 2016. The group met with six peacebuilding organizations, five churches. They also stopped at six places where people were killed, heard three survivors stories and went to church along the route on Sunday morning.

When I was a child, my dad sang the spiritual I want Jesus to walk with me with a quartet in which he was a part. It remains a song imprinted on my heart. Recently, this song became of even greater importance.

I want Jesus to walk with me, on this pilgrim journey

I wanted Jesus to walk with the Chicago Pilgrim Walk that was walking 35 miles through the five police districts that experienced the most gun deaths in 2016.1 We walked to visit people who lost sons, daughters, nieces and nephews to violence. We walked to the places where these murders happened and heard stories of the real people that were killed. We walked to see the communities in which violence is ever-present and yet so are the daily lives of faithful families. We walked to churches and organizations that work to transform conflict and violence and provide safety to neighborhoods. 

Oh Lord, walk with us.

In my sorrow, Lord walk with me.

When we arrived at Dawes Park, one of the leaders of the pilgrimage started telling us the story of a 9-year-old who was shot and killed there. I stood there with tears rolling down my face. The pain of the little boy was fresh in my mind but so was the pain of his family that now doesn’t get to see his dreams realized or a life well lived. The trauma of a neighborhood that loses children weekly was real to me as is the pain that guns are the normal way to solve conflicts in too many places.

Oh Lord, walk with us.

In my troubles, when my life becomes a burden.

During the walk I had a glimpse of what it would be like to walk everywhere as Jesus did. From the gospels we hear that Jesus walked through places and met people where they were and gave examples of how to be with people. Walking brings a new perspective of a place. We walked through parts of Chicago – a world class city - that don’t have a local grocery store. We walked through parts of town that lacked trash pick up.

As I walked and saw the inequality between some of these neighborhoods and other more white, more wealthy neighborhoods, I remembered that Jesus valued those that society did not. Jesus lifted the marginalized to be exalted. I also saw people working to change the inequalities that exist – families who care, blocks that take seriously a commitment to safety for their children and organizations that have become a neighborhood’s safety net.

O Lord, walk with us.

Walking through these neighborhoods was not a solution to neighborhood violence. Walking, instead, was an important step of remembering that Jesus walked for and with people. Walking was a remembrance of the call to walk with Jesus to create peace through relationships, just laws and a clear witness of being in community together.

O Lord, walk with us.