A makeshift shrine to the victims was established after seven people tragically gunned down in the Highland Park, Illinois on July 4. | Photo credit: Lamont Taylor
On an idyllic July 4 summer morning, Pastor Lamont Taylor dropped his son off for work at the preschool operated by the Gurnee Seventh-day Adventist Church and made his way to the nearby church office. A few hours later he received a frantic call from his wife, Marina, asking if he knew where their children were. She explained there was a shooting along the parade route in Highland Park, just 20 minutes away, and the gunman was still on the loose. She ended the call telling him to round up their four teen and adult children. “Whoever is out, tell them to get home now!”
In the ensuing hours after that phone call, he would receive several more from church members checking in to see if everyone was accounted for. “Each time we prayed, we cried, and we prayed some more,” says Taylor who pastors both the Gurnee and Northbrook Church, 20 minutes north of Highland Park.
By the time the day was over, reports of seven dead and dozens injured were on every news channel and Taylor says breathed a sigh of relief when the gunman was taken into custody. “Our prayers were answered that no more people had died at the hands of this gunman.” He felt further relief he says as he watched live footage of the shooter apprehended just two blocks from where his son usually plays soccer. A weapon with another 60 rounds were reportedly found in the backseat of the vehicle. Police say the gunman drove to Madison, Wisconsin with the thought of firing off more rounds but decided against it since he had not done extensive planning.
The following day was a series of hastily called meetings with the Northbrook clergy group. “We began collecting funds for the families and organizing mental health specialists for traumatized residents.”
On Wednesday, the group held a prayer vigil in Highland Park and visited the makeshift shrine where the community had gathered to grieve and pay their respects.
As he prepares for church this Sabbath, Taylor says he plans to remind his congregation that we are no doubt living in the last days.
“When I look at the word of God, I’m seeing prophecy fulfilled,” he says. “When you look at Matt. 24—wars and rumors of wars, nations rising up against nations, an increase in wickedness— it gives us a rundown and how rapidly these things would be happening. The only thing I can do is to pray for a hedge of protection to be kept over God’s people so we can continue to share the gospel.”
“When something traumatic like this happens, we find people wanting to hear the gospel. I look at this as an opportunity for those of us in the church to position ourselves to lift up and share the name of Jesus.”
Taylor says in the Chicago area alone, on July 4 weekend, 57 people were shot – 12 fatally - further evidence that we need to be working harder to share the message of hope and healing to our broken communities. “We have to look at these things with a spiritual eye.”
He says he notices that the church is sometimes reticent about engaging with affluent people such as those in Highland Park and other wealthy towns dotting the Lake Michigan shorelines.
“I share with our members that we can’t be timid in reaching out to them,” he says. “It’s not how big the house or how big the bank account. The point is they’re missing the gospel. We have to get over any fears about sharing the gospel in these areas. We have to stay in prayer and stay connected.
“When Christ is lifted up, all men will be drawn to him. We’ve been given the commission to go and because Christ has given us the word to go, we have the power to do it.”
On Sabbath afternoon, July 9, Northbrook Church members will fan out into the community and all are invited to join their efforts. For more information, please contact Lamont Taylor at 847-890-2749.
Debbie Michel is the Lake Union Communication director and Lake Union Herald editor.