Tuesday, July 7, 2020
Teresa Martinez - Florida Catholic
Photography: JONATHAN MARTINEZ | FC
MIAMI SPRINGS | Inspired by a desire to unite people of faith, religious leaders in Miami Springs gathered June 27, 2020 for an Ecumenical Walk for Justice & Reconciliation. Nearly 50 people took part in the one-mile walk which incorporated readings from scripture, prayers, songs, and moments of silence and reflection.
“The main goal is to pray,” said Father José Alfaro, pastor of Blessed Trinity, the area's Catholic parish. “This isn’t a protest. We are gathering to pray and reflect. We hope to raise awareness in the community of the importance of doing things like this and to do better and be better Christians.”
The event was as uplifting and warm as the sunny day. People observed social distancing rules and wore face masks despite the heat. An array of ages took part, from children to senior citizens, while plenty of others watched live on social media.
"The purpose of today is to call people of faith together to pray, to pray for justice, for healing, for reconciliation, because prayer changes things,” said Rev. Ginger Medley, pastor of Poinciana United Methodist Church, in her opening remarks. “Most of all I’m hopeful that God will change our hearts, that God will soften our hearts to love one another in new and amazing ways. With hope, there can be a change.”
The message was echoed by those in attendance.
“I’m so grateful to our faith community,” said Miami Springs Councilwoman Maria Mitchell. “There’s nothing more that we need in our community, nation, and globe right now than the belief in faith, a belief in God, and the unity that it creates in all of us. We need to pray for ways to take care of our community and improve and make sure that we are striving to overcome injustice.”
Father Alfaro led the prayer of confession at Circle Park in Miami Springs followed by five minutes of silence in honor of those who have died because of racial injustice.
“Prayer and reconciliation are needed at this time,” said Father Alfaro. “It is important that we fight against racism, discrimination, and equality. It’s a matter of the heart, it has to do with the conversion of the heart and being able to see one another as true brothers and sisters in Christ.”
“It was important to attend today’s event with my family because we need to come together and support one another as a community,” said Lino De La Cruz, Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus council at Blessed Trinity. “We are one race, one people. I’m hoping the message of peace and love resonates with everyone here so that we can pray and overcome the injustices that are going on.”
“I was born and raised in the faith and I feel with everything going on in the world, people have lost their way,” said Antoinette Ghalloub, a longtime Blessed Trinity parishioner. “We need to give a message of hope and that our hope is in Jesus Christ. And that we need to come together as a community and unite more than ever. I’m proud to be part of a church that cares so much about our community and is standing as a pillar of faith during such trying times.”
The peaceful walk led by the religious leaders of Blessed Trinity, Poinciana United Methodist, and Crossbridge Church then processed to Fair Haven Center, the long-term care facility which has reported over 40 deaths from COVID-19.
“We know that COVID has been rampant at Fair Haven, so we want to pray for them, the staff, and the residents,” said Rev. Medley. “We want to look to God and hope for healing and help during this time of need.”
The walk then continued by Grace Lutheran Church and ended at Miami Springs City Hall, where the chief of police addressed the crowd.
“This last year has been a tough year for all of us,” said Chief Armando Guzman, who spoke from his heart. “In particular the last four weeks have been incredibly difficult for us as a nation. Professionally this has been incredibly difficult, frustrating, and painful. I thank all of you in support of us and the difficult job we have. Together we can do good.”
The final prayers were dedicated to justice and reform and for local and national leaders and police. The religious leaders said they are determined to continue to work together and offer more ecumenical events.
“We need the youth,” said Rev. Medley. “Your voice is important. We need you to light that fire under us to remind us that we can work towards a better future. That’s our hope and this event is just a spark.”