Posted by Neighborhood Church

It’s been an honor working with Richard and Ursula Walker, whose son’s gang-related murder we acknowledged in A Walk for Christopher on April 30th (Click HERE for media coverage).   Through my activist and mission-oriented friend, Jill Shook, Ursula and Richard have agreed to become trained facilitators for the Parent Project.  These classes help parents whose children have become affiliated with gangs de-affiliate. Ursula and Richard are feeling empowered to make a difference in their community because the community has helped them see they have a role to play.  I am also connecting Ursula to a writing group, to be of aid to her while she writes her son’s story that will eventually be published in a book.

It’s critical that people like Ursula get encouragement, because too often they receive discouragement, often from both sides – from both law enforcement and the black community to which they rightfully belong.

In the beginning stages for the planning of A Walk for Christopher, Ursula had called her local Altadena Sheriff’s Department to let them know about it and they gave her the run-around.  The man she talked to said, “Oh, well, you know, you’re going to need a permit for that and those take a long time to get and you probably can’t get it in time for April 30th.”  That’s not an exact quotation, but you get the idea.  Ursula received discouraging messages (it turned out no permit was required) while when the white minister calls (me), I am treated with respect.

Then this past Monday, Ursula was invited to be on a radio program with other mothers across the country whose children have been killed by community violence.  One of the other mothers asked her, where are you from and are you of mixed race?  The questioner actually came out and said it: “you don’t sound black enough,” insinuating Ursula didn’t belong with the other mothers who also lost their children to gang murder.

How enraging.  It’s one thing Unitarian Universalists are known for – finding belonging for people who are told they don’t belong.  Beloved community isn’t just for our church community alone – we transform the world when we extend that sense of belonging to members of our larger community, providing creative connections that are meant to be.  All that’s required is kindness, caring, a little time, and sometimes, just a pinch of audacity.

-Rev. Hannah Petrie

3 Responses to Getting It from Both Sides

  1. Sue Iri says:

    The Walkers are a strong and inspiring couple and I wish them the best in this difficult time. I was very proud of our church and of you, Hannah for involving us in their journey and creating a forum for them. I’ll look for updates on her upcoming book.

  2. DeAnn Morris says:

    Thank you, Hannah. This report is both discouraging and inspiring.

    I am so proud of our UU Church and of you, Hannah.

  3. Ursula Walker says:

    To Reverend Hannah and the Neighborhood Church:

    Speaking for Richard and I, and our girls, Nicole and Andrea Walker, we are so very grateful for the love and general concern that has been shown to us over the last several weeks.

    Beginning with the initial warm meeting with Pastor Hannah in our home, to the actual Walk for Christopher, and even to each subsequent meeting and or contact, we have felt nothing but kindness and our Father’s love.

    Though we were perfect strangers to both the leadership and members of the Neighborhood Church, it was you who took the time to reach out to us. You entered our world to walk and and cry along with us as we stood together against street violence and honored the memory of our son.

    We are so grateful for the connection we now feel and we sincerely thank each of you who were kind enough to consider us as friends in the aftermath of Christopher’s senseless death.

    One of the most hurtful things about losing our child (especially in such a cruel and senseless way), was that it seemed at first as if Christopher’s desire and potential to help at-risk young men had died along with him.

    However, because of the wonderful work of Pastor Hannah and your church, our son has been given a voice through us which we hope will continue to help bring healing to our communities.

    Thank you, Neighborhood, for showing the compassion of true neighbors, the warmth of family, and the loyalty of long-time friends.