The Civil War bitterly divided the United States along regional and racial lines. A stronger, unifying force calling for healing and unity was recognized at a ceremony in late June in Springdale Cemetery. The occasion was a restoration project moving and repairing Peoria’s 153-year-old Civil War memorial.
Unlike memorials to “The Lost Cause” celebrating the Confederacy, Peoria’s monument honors the dead and calls on the living to work to bring people together.
The Rev. Marvin Hightower, senior pastor at Liberty Church and president of the Peoria branch of the NAACP, gave the invocation:
“Heavenly Father, as we gather today for this historic groundbreaking, we humbly ask you to fill our hearts and spirits with thoughts and commitment to COMMUNITY. Let COMMUNITY spread, today, from each one of us, to all those who gather here, and let COMMUNITY spread from this ceremony, and engulf Central Illinois just as it did 153 years ago, when this 1866 monument was dedicated.
Heavenly Father, make us today, ‘Wheels Within Wheels’ … radiating outward to others, and radiating inward to each other, that we may all gather strength and a Community of Commitment, from each other, to each other, to surround Central Illinois and beyond.
Bring us together.
Light our path, Father … show us the way.
Let our community bond again, with 657 Peoria County Union soldiers who sacrificed their lives for Union and Community.
Let their service and sacrifice be our own.
Let this restoration project rise above stones, Father … Let our bond with their service and sacrifice cause us to ‘take up wings, as in eagles’.
Take us, today, Heavenly Father, to the mountaintop.
Let us see what has been lost and forgotten, be found, and come home to us again.
In your name, Father, we gather today.
In your service, Father, we begin to raise again, a monument to Union, Service, Sacrifice, and Community.
In your honor, Father… we join hands, we join spirits, we join In community.”