Praise music wafted in the air and loud, affirming “amens” sprang up from the crowd of people gathered on the Great Lawn in downtown Louisville Aug. 3.
About 400 people gathered at Waterfront Park to take part in the “God Belongs in My City” prayer walk.
Karen Brawner, one of the event’s organizers, addressed the crowd before the walk by acknowledging the latest incident of violence in the city.
“Another murder happened in our city last night. We need to pray, to pray for unification,” she said. “This has to stop.”
The crowd replied with a resounding “yes.”
The non-denominational event was meant to be a visible presence of peace and prayer to fellow residents of Louisville, Mark Pfeifer, one of the event’s organizers, said.
“My prayer is that we wake the sleeping community of Christians we have. I’m not slamming Christians locally; I’m slamming myself. Jesus commanded us to love everyone as we love ourselves,” Pfeifer said during a phone interview before the event.
Five different routes led participants through parts of downtown Louisville and Waterfront Park. Each route was about a mile and one half or less. Praise and worship bands, including ones from Trinity High School and Holy Spirit Church, played music on the main stage throughout the morning. Participants who did not wish to or were unable to walk the route were encouraged to remain at the stage and pray there.
The walk itself was not designed to be confrontational. Participants were discouraged from starting debates with passersby. Rather, the walk was meant to “show the love of God,” Pfeifer said.
Several groups of people from parishes in the Archdiocese of Louisville attended Saturday’s prayer walk, including groups from St. Patrick, St. Bernadette and St. Lawrence churches.
Several members of the Louisville Young Catholics group also were in attendance. The group met early for Mass at Holy Trinity Church and for breakfast at a bagel shop before heading to the prayer walk.
Anna Taul, a member of Louisville Young Catholics, said the walk gave people the opportunity to be a witness to the community.
“Coming off the excitement of World Youth Day, we are very tuned in,” she said. “This walk gives us the opportunity to stand up for our faith and share it with others.”
Taul said she hopes at the very least people can agree with the basic premise of the walk.
“One thing the world has really seen with Pope Francis is that we really do have a lot more in common than different,” Taul said. “This takes it back to square one. We share a common belief that God does belong in our city.”
The “God Belongs in My City” prayer walk began in 2009 in New York City. Two youth ministers saw an atheist advertisement stating “A Million New Yorkers Are Good Without God. Are You?” They were so affected by the sign they went back to their youth groups and organized a gathering where participants wore T-shirts with a simple message: God Belongs in My City.
Since then, more than a hundred walks have taken place throughout the United States, the Caribbean islands, Europe, Africa and Central America, Pfeifer said.
Pfeifer hopes to see the walk grow into a major event in this city.
“My vision is that one day in the very near future, more people will come to Louisville to praise and worship our God than to watch fireworks and an airplane show.”