Saint Francis of Assisi encouraged the faithful of his 13th century religious community to, “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.” For him, as well as us, the “Good News” of Christ is made known not only through proclamation, but also in faithful, humble service.
Thus, “Praying with Our Feet” became the mantra of St. Louis’ faith communities as together we worked to calm tensions in Ferguson following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, bring peace to streets that had experienced nights’ of violence and seek justice both for his family and the police officer who shot him. Lay and clergy members of the Diocese of Missouri were among the many who joined in this shared ministry of faith, healing and witness to the entire community, including (pictured below): The Rev. Jon Stratton, Director of Deaconess Anne House, and Episcopal Service Corps members; The Revs. Michael Dunnington, Rector of All Saints’, and Marc Smith, Vicar of Ascension; The Right Rev. George Wayne Smith, Bishop of Missouri; and The Rev. Teresa Danieley, Rector of St. John’s and her daughter.
The tragedy in Ferguson also summoned the entire community to care for those whose lives and businesses have been directly impacted by looting and violence – delivering food, sharing time with children unable to attend school, providing medical care and so much more. On Saturday, August 23, members of Ascension, St. Barnabas and St. Peter’s Episcopal Churches, several of whom are pictured below, staffed the booth usually operated by St. Stephen’s at the weekly Ferguson Farmers’ Market to give them time to rest after the stress of the preceding weeks. Almost $300 was raised to support its food pantry.
Much needs to be done in our community in the days, months and years ahead to address the many complex factors which contributed to the shooting of Michael Brown and response to it. Ascension must and will be part of this ongoing conversation to help our region heal and move forward. But, most important, we’ll continue to be the church – praying with our feet and serving with our hands.