UMTV: Mom’s Grief Inspires Peace Walk
In Chicago, where gun violence has left hundreds dead, a United Methodist woman has started a grass-roots movement for peace. Despite the tragic loss of her own son and in the face of overwhelming odds, Mary Long brought people together for a walk against violence but this walk included a labyrinth.
Mary Long to crowd at peace rally: "My son, Eric, Eric Williams, was murdered three blocks from this very ground that we're standing on."
Mary Long, Sacred Ground Ministries:"My name is Mary Long and I'm a member of Ingleside-Whitfield United Methodist Church. I was about 13 years old, that's when I started using drugs, and that journey took me down a spiral down path of 25 years. I was arrested in 2001 and I made the decision at that time that I wanted to change my life. I registered for this program in DuPage County Jail called JUST. That stood for justice, understanding, serving and teaching. The last class I took was the labyrinth walk &ellipsis;and I took that walk."
Ellen Bintz Meuch discussing labyrinth: "When you walk in, you kind of release."
Ellen Bintz Meuch, Labyrinth Instructor: "My name is Ellen Bintz Meuch and I'm a member of Gary United Methodist Church in Wheaton, Illinois. I first met Mary in the DuPage County Jail in 2001. I was leading a program with the labyrinth in the jail. Labyrinths are fabulous for integrating grief, helping you to find focus, to put you in a meditative state."
Mary Long: "That walk allowed God to talk to me about who I really was and why I'm really put on this earth. After I got out of jail, me and Eric was able to get an apartment. Eric was a momma's boy, simple as that. People would see us together and say things like, 'Oh, I love the way you guys interact.' I came to Ingleside-Whitfield United Methodist Church because of the Angel Tree program. They picked Eric's name for a Christmas gift in 2002. I said, 'Y'all picked my son's name while I was in prison and I just wanted to thank you.' And this became my church home ever since that day."
The Rev. Jacqueline P. Ford, Senior Pastor, Ingleside-Whitfield United Methodist Church: "I am Reverend Jacqueline P. Ford, senior pastor of Ingleside-Whitfield United Methodist Church in Chicago. I met Mary, and she began to tell me her journey. I thought, 'Wow, look at you now. Look at what God is doing with you now.'"
Ellen Bintz Meuch: "She worked so hard to get her GED and then pretty soon, she was getting her associates degree, and then I was absolutely overwhelmed when she told me she was graduating from National Louis University with her bachelor's degree."
Mary Long: "Sacred Ground Ministries was developed out of the adult ministries here. We had initiated an anti-violence ministry the day before my son was killed. Eric loved his family, he loved his church, he loved his friends. He would meet me at the train every night and support me during my bachelor's program, and he would make sure he was there to pick me up. That's why the night he didn't answer the phone, I was like, 'Oh my God, he's not answering the phone.' Losing a child is like the breath is actually, literally, sucked out of your body. God says, 'My grace is sufficient in your weakness. My strength is found in your weakness.' And just scripture after scripture after scripture brought me through."
Ellen Bintz Meuch: "Her spirit when she called me to tell me about Eric was the most amazing. And, she said to me, 'Ellen, these kids need love. These kids in the neighborhood are struggling, they need love, will you bring the labyrinth?'
Mary Long at peace rally: "Each and every single one of us standing on this sacred ground can ALL make a difference!"
Pastor Ford at peace rally: "I think of the young men over here on this corner. We need to be going over there and bringing them here because it is those young men who are losing their lives."
Ellen Bintz Meuch:"She's always put love first and that's our intention is to make this movement different, to make it centered in love and not in anger."
Mary Long: "My hope for the labyrinth is that people will walk the labyrinth and find out what God wants each and every person to do, in and out of the community, to help stop violence. It's like his spirit is pushing me. I hear his voice saying, 'Ma, you know what you gotta do.' "
(Rally participants march and sing) "&ellipsis;was blind, but now, I see."
Mary Long and Ingleside-Whitfield United Methodist Church in Chicago plan more events to reach out to the surrounding community in an effort to stop gun violence.
For more information, contact the church at 773-483-7798.
Posted: September 5, 2012