ST. LOUIS - While many are indulging in sweets and treats this holiday season, members of a church in north St. Louis will not be giving in to temptation. They believe fasting and prayer will lead to a decrease in violent crime in the St. Louis area.
Bishop Lawrence Wooten has been the pastor at Williams Temple Church of God in Christ (1500 Union Boulevard) for 40 years. The church sits near the corner of Union Boulevard and Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in the Kingsway West neighborhood.
"We all agree, our land needs healing," said Wooten. "People are dying needlessly, children are dying.”
Reported crime in the Kingsway West neighborhood was up more than 24 percent between May and October of this year compared to the same time last year. During that time, the neighborhood saw twice as many homicides and aggravated assaults as 2018.
As of Dec. 2, the city of St. Louis has recorded 183 homicides for the year. Eleven of those victims were under the age of 17.
"My heart goes out to the mothers that have lost children, grandparents that are raising children, just senseless violence," said Sheila Stuart who visited Williams Temple Church of God in Christ Monday to pray. "Kids going to football games, a place where you would expect safety and happiness, hanging out with the family, and you get shot."
Wooten is calling on anyone in the St. Louis area to join them for "spiritual warfare" by combatting violent crime by fasting and praying. People may take on a strict fast where they only consume water for 40 days or they may opt to fast for a set number of hours each day.
"Whatever kind of fast you choose, God will acknowledge that," said Wooten.
The challenge began Monday morning and will continue until noon on Friday, January 10, 2020. The church will be open around the clock during that time for anyone wishing to visit and pray.