ST. LOUIS - St. Louis' steadily rising homicide rate was the catalyst for Tuesday's Better Family Life Town Hall Meeting in the 5400 block of Page Avenue. It was a community cry for help and a search for answers to a rising level of violence claiming black lives.
"Our country's in a crisis, St. Louis is in a crisis, and our neighborhoods are in a crisis," said Pastor Richard Dalton.
Has a potential solution been there all along?
"For many neighborhoods, the church has been absent," said Better Family Life's James Clark, project director for a faith-based effort called "The Pulpit to Porches, Neighborhood Alliance Project.
"How do we begin to reposition the church back into a leadership position?"
Better Family Life called church and community leaders together to search for solutions violence and killings in St. Louis. One by one, 14 ministers introduced themselves, symbolizing a new commitment by local churches to leave the pulpit and take their message to neighborhood porches. In other words, to be a bigger part of the solution to a crime rate spiraling out of control.
"This is not going to be a quick fix," said Clark, "but we think that the long term solution is to bring structure to our neighborhoods and we think that the church has to assert itself now,"
Between 40 and 50 people listened to the message of reducing violence, creating jobs and providing community resources. If it seemed like the ministers were preaching to the choir Tuesday night, Pastor Dalton hopes eventually the sermon will reach everyone who needs to hear it.
"The choir hopefully will be both the church and the neighborhood singing the same song off the same sheet of music," Dalton said.