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South Side Showdown

It happened during our second service on a Sunday morning in March 1999. I was preaching about the importance of vision. "Where there is no vision, the people perish," I declared, quoting Solomon. Enthusiastic amens rose up. The crowd was with me. But then—bang, bang, bang. The unmistakable sound of gunfire, right outside the church, interrupted my sermon.

The congregation gasped collectively as we listened to the relentless shots, coupled with the frenzied shouts of male voices, and heard men running down our street.

Dear Lord, I prayed, protect us from this madness.

Then my horror turned into steely indignation. I was at once fearful for the safety of my people and enraged that these young men—gangbangers, I surmised—would have the nerve to fire guns in front of our church on Sunday morning. The gunshots soon subsided, but we did not allow the congregation to be dismissed until we were certain there was no more shooting.

At the beginning of the next service, at 12 o'clock, ...

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