A day to remember the children Schmoke gives sermon at a service honoring street violence victims

October 19, 1998|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

The first child on the list was Antonio Faulkner, the last, Jerry Walley. In between were 38 others, grouped together only by a single fact: All were killed in the streets of Baltimore this year.

Beginning at 10: 30 a.m. yesterday, the names of all 40 child victims were read -- as bells rang and 40 candles were lighted in their memory -- at a celebration of the National Observance of Children's Sabbath at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in North Baltimore.

Hundreds of participants of all ages, including Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who had been invited to deliver the guest sermon, gathered for the interactive, interfaith service, sponsored by the Children's Defense Fund and celebrated annually at mosques, churches and synagogues across the country.

At turns solemn and celebratory, the 90-minute service involved children at every turn.

Sarah Kitlowski, 14, of Bel Air, who has taken part in a number of Children's Sabbath celebrations at the Episcopal cathedral, read the first prayer in the series of "Prayers of the People."

"I like standing up and letting people know I'm part of the church and that I like being religious, and it doesn't make me any less cool," Kitlowski said after the ceremony.

Another participant, Chris Bauer, 14, of Parkville read the name of one of the children killed in the city this year, then carried a single candle to a "children's altar" at the back of the church.

"I'm doing it for God," said Bauer, who was taking part in his first Children's Sabbath. "We need to pay our respects to the children who were killed. Most of them have gone to heaven, we've got to be thankful of that. We've got to make things better. I guess that's why we're celebrating."

Schmoke spoke about the challenge parents face as they try to keep their children safe. He stressed his commitment to ending juvenile violence, establishing drug treatment programs for at-risk youth, reducing teen pregnancy and establishing support groups for parents.

"Making children safe and sound is my perpetual mission," he said.

Schmoke also quoted remarks made this year by Marian Wright Edelman, director of the Children's Defense Fund: "No individual or congregation can do everything, but every individual and congregation should do something."

The Very Rev. Van H. Gardner, dean of the church, said he invited the mayor -- and other city officials -- as a sign of support for the work he has done on behalf of children, as well as a way to challenge the city to do more.

At the start of the service, Stephen Fowl, 38, of Baltimore and his son, Liam, 4,carried two candles -- representing the 39th and 40th children killed this year -- to the children's altar.

"It's important for us as a congregation in the city to take [account] of this aspect of life in the city," Fowl said, "both to remember those who have died and to show our hope that all of us in the city will be redeemed at some point."

Fowl said his son -- even at age 4 -- seemed to understand the significance of the moment. "Something was going on inside of him that I hadn't anticipated," he said.

Pub Date: 10/19/98

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