Church marks decline in city's homicide rate - Word&Way

Church marks decline in city’s homicide rate

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (ABP) – A somber Advent tradition was mingled with hope as Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., placed 46 crosses on its lawn Dec. 4 -– one for each of the city’s homicide victims so far this year. Pastor Joe Phelps said he hopes this year’s tally ends at 46, nine fewer than last year.

“We grieve with those families for whom this is not a season of joy, and hold out the life of Jesus as a model for putting away violence,” Phelps said. “We also pray for all who work to make our community safe and just. It is a testament to the hope that God is not done."

WLKY-TV reported that criminal homicides in metro Louisville are on track for the lowest number since a merger of city and county governments in 2003. Christopher 2X, a community activist formerly known as Christopher Anthony Bryan, attributed the downward trend in part to increased awareness. 

"The main goal is to try and make sure we do our best to hopefully send a message, especially to the young, about the trappings of violence," he said.

Highland Baptist first placed crosses on the second Sunday of Advent –- also known as Peace Sunday -– in 1997, Phelps’ first year as pastor. It was intended as a one-time event to draw attention to a spike in the city’s murder rate, but the response was so great that it was repeated in 1998 and every year since.

The ceremony includes reading the names of each person killed during the year in an act of violence and placing a cross in his or her honor. Joining this year’s observance were St. William Catholic Church and Ridgewood Baptist Church, a Louisville congregation that has been in a shared pastoral leadership partnership with Highland since 2008.

Some of the people in attendance were there to remember loved ones lost to violence. Martha Dickerson told the Louisville TV station about her son, Kirk Harrison, who was shot in December 2003 and died the following month.

“It doesn’t get easier,” she said. “You just get to a point where you can live with it. The joy you had before this happened is not there anymore.”


Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.