Philadelphia is known as “The City of Brotherly Love” — such a warm and engaging moniker, but crime in the city often tarnishes the goodwill and benevolence that’s generously expressed by upstanding residents throughout the city. A group of local men from area churches have been rallying together weekly, walking the streets in high-crime neighborhoods and praying for residents to help restore brotherly love throughout the community.
The weekly prayer walk was conceived as a way to demonstrate love and support of the North Philadelphia community and its residents.
“As we know, a lot of gangland shootings and a lot of unwholesome things are going on in the community, so we thought that men from various churches should get together and pray about concerns of the community,” said Rev. Fred Robinson, an associate minister of Tenth Memorial Baptist Church, 19th and Master streets.
Robinson believes that praying at traffic intersections, praying at high crime drug corners, praying at popular beer take-out spots, and praying with neighbors on the stroll through the neighborhood, sends a strong message that Christian men are deeply concerned about making a positive change in their community, “People are aware that we are in the community, trying to make a difference.”
Alford Terry serves as a deacon at Greater Enon Missionary Baptist Church, 22nd and Berks streets, and he is a strong supporter and volunteer of the weekly prayer walk initiative, “We participate with (neighboring) churches — Miller Memorial Baptist Church, Tenth Memorial Baptist Church, Second Shiloh Baptist Church and other churches. We decided that we were going to hit the streets and start out with prayer at intersections, and as we meet people along the way, we would ask if we could pray with them.”
Terry, who has served as a Deacon at Greater Enon for seven years and has been a member since 1994, said the response from those they encounter on the street has been very positive.
The architect of the neighborhood prayer walk initiative is Rev. Alfonso Callazo, he serves as Associate Pastor at Tenth Memorial Baptist Church.
“The concept came about when six churches gathered together to begin to evangelize in the community — to let the community know that these are men who are concerned about the community,” he said. “And as we go out and pray every Saturday, the community will see that the church is concerned about the (wellbeing of the) community, and then as people gather in the circle of prayer, that gives us the opportunity to evangelize to people to invite them to church.”
Callazo believes that the more residents are positively impacted by the prayer walk initiative, the greater the potential to remove the dark cloud of crime in Philadelphia. Callazo also serves as a police chaplain in the 22nd Police District. He focuses on North Philadelphia communities within his designated precinct because of the high concentration of violent crimes.
Callazo continued, “I think it’s important for people to see men out there trying to help take back the community. And it’s good that the kids see that it’s men,” rallying together for the weekly prayer walk.
Keith Davis, is a deacon at Greater Enon Missionary Baptist Church, he’s been a member for 10 years. Davis is another strong advocate of the prayer walk initiative, “It shows that the men are finally stepping up.” Davis believes that for so many years, the women have always stepped up to serve in the church in very visible and meaningful ways, “(The prayer walk) is finally showing men taking the lead … we’re finally taking our rightful place.”