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Starting in August, members of Roseland Christian Reformed Church in Chicago moved their midweek prayer service out to the parking lot.

They wanted to fill the air with praise to replace the sounds of violence plaguing the church’s neighborhood. According to the Chicago Tribune, there had been 51 homicides in the area in the previous 18 months.

The violence struck close to home on August 10 when two little girls were shot while jumping rope two blocks from the church. Ariana Jones, 7, survived a shot to the head, but her cousin, Tanaja Stokes, 8, was killed. Tanaja’s aunt, Carolyn Zeigler, is a member of Roseland CRC.

Three days after Tanaja’s death, more than 300 people prayed, sang, and marched together.

The church plans to hold the midweek service outside until the weather becomes too cold. The service includes a lot of singing accompanied by a band, rap, sharing testimonies, and a short sermon by ministry associate Joe Huizenga.

Since moving outdoors, the service has nearly doubled in attendance. Huizenga said, “Simply by singing and making music we fill the air with a sound different from crying mothers and blasting guns. By taking the service outside we’re reclaiming the area for God’s kingdom. Instead of fear, hatred, and violence, we’re the clear, visible example of God’s reign here on earth. We’re proclaiming God’s kingdom.”

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