ROCHESTER, N.Y. — As the latest effort by United Christian Leadership Ministry to arrest deadly violence in Rochester was being introduced to faith leaders around the city, Angel Anderson was in search of a lighter.
Anderson, of Rochester, and a friend built a small memorial by a light pole at the corner of Child Street and Lyell Avenue, less than 50 yards from where 22-year old Anthony Lawson was shot and killed Monday. The young women spelled out Lawson's nickname, "Toot," in tea lights.
Anderson said she was not optimistic about UCLM's call to faith leaders to get out into the streets with social ministry and "reclaim their neighborhoods" through counseling, block parties and crisis intervention.
"They gotta promote it. It's not just gonna stop."
Leading a news conference which introduced his organization's call for action, UCLM's Rev. Lewis Stewart called gun violence a public health disease and a spiritual problem. He called on all religious leaders in the city to develop a visible, sustainable response to Rochester’s spike in deadly violence.
Rev. Stewart believes even in a generation less likely to listen and less likely to be connected to faith communities, mosque, synagogue and church leaders. He’s offered the UCLM as a hub of this response.
"I’m asking religious leaders regardless of faith to reclaim your neighborhood block. Engage people in your community block through community outreach. Come out of your insular four walls," Rev. Stewart said.
"Now we’re dealing with a new breed of young folks that’s out here committing crime and they’re not listening to anything anybody says," said Rochester resident Maudine Brown.
How will this reach into neighborhoods? UCLM introduced a quilt made by Lynn Torrey Johnson, a woman who lost a son to violence. His story and those of 41 other men adorn the quilt. It will be on display at church’s around Rochester, starting at First Genesis Church on Hudson Avenue near the scene of last week’s deadly double shooting.
Maudine Brown's hopeful. She's waged this crusade since her son fell to violence 26 years ago. Brown attended the UCLM event Tuesday morning and believes the effort to stop violence a generation ago may be different because of the people perpetrating the crimes today.
"Now we're dealing with a breed of young folks that's out here committing crime and they're not hearing anything anybody say," she said.
Most of Rochester’s churches already extended to social ministry. Just down the street from Monday's murder, Holy Apostle Church prepared for its neighborhood meal. Some 500 fliers went out.
"Making connections with people just having normal interactions in terms of talking and trying to bridge the gap of isolation is extremely important," said Rev. Anthony Mugavero, pastor of Holy Apostle.
Other parishioners join Mugavero on the streets and, without knocking on a single door, they attempt to reach neighbors, at risk and not, through prayer.