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Wednesday, July 30, 2008 03:41 pm

Focus on the future

Riot commemorations to conclude with speaker on racial reconciliation

The series of "solemn assemblies" put together by a coalition of religious leaders to commemorate the Springfield race riot of 1908 will conclude Saturday with a service unlike the previous gatherings. The final assembly will feature a guest speaker: Abraham Lincoln Washington, pastor of a West Side Chicago church noted for its mission of racial reconciliation. Previous assemblies have been focused on prayer rather than on a speaker.

Nicholas Stojakovich, a member of the local Ministerial Alliance committee that planned the assemblies, says Washington is aware of the history but plans to focus on the future. "He will speak on the practical aspects of walking out reconciliation," Stojakovich says. "The theme will be justice and mercy."

Washington is the pastor of Rock of Our Salvation Evangelical Free Church, which partners with Circle Urban Ministries to provide everything from a food pantry and legal aid to mentoring and addiction-recovery programs for residents of Austin, one of the poorest communities in Chicagoland. The coalition operates on "three R's" -- reconciliation, relocation (into the urban community), and redistribution of resources.

Other clergy members who will participate in the service include Bishop George Lucas, the Rev. T. Ray McJunkins, Sister Katherine O'Conner, Leroy Jordan of the Springfield Diocese's Black Catholic Ministry, and Pastor Steve Seiple. The service begins at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 815 S. Sixth St., and ends with a walk to the Old State Capitol, to the marker documenting the recantation of Mabel Hallam, the white woman whose allegation that she had been raped by a black man helped spark the deadly riot.

Contact Dusty Rhodes at drhodes@illinoistimes.com.

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