Community unites to remember Charleston
Published 9:21 am Friday, June 26, 2015
“Heaven must look a lot like this,” said Steve Gibson, associate pastor of Franklin Baptist Church, as he looked out at the audience gathered in the church’s sanctuary.
Members of church congregations across Western Tidewater gathered on Tuesday night in prayer to honor those killed in Charleston last week.
“The service was a beautiful representation of how we, as Christians and as a community, should respond to a tragedy,” said Kristen Cooke, Franklin Baptist’s pastoral intern. “It is absolutely essential to answer such actions with love, forgiveness and reconciliation so that, even in moments of despair, Christ may be glorified.”
The service maintained an upbeat, joyous tone throughout the evening.
“We wanted to be happy and joyful because we are supposed to walk in the way of love, even in times of tragedy or crisis,” said Joanne Russell, a layleader who helped the event to run smoothly. “We didn’t want any kind of negativity. We wanted a place for people to come and express their sadness, but find comfort in the unity of the Christian community.”
Those attending spent the evening singing praise and worship songs and heard brief sermons from pastors across the region. Presenters included Steve Gibson and Brent Kimlick, both of Franklin Baptist; John MacBride from Kingdom Community; Delores Manley from Piney Grove; Dr. Evelyn Square from Scott’s Revival; Pastor Willie Freeman from Pleasant Shade; and Bishop Samuel Hall from Mt. Olive Holiness Church.
MacBride said in his speech, “The truth is we’ve been united for a long time. But we forget these things … the differences between us don’t exist in the kingdom of God.”
Pastor Kimlick first suggested the idea for the community prayer service, reaching out to Apostle Peggy Scott of Fellowship Around the World.
She in turn suggested inviting Pastor Terrance Johnson at Kingdom Community Church, and the three worked together to spread word of the service to numerous other pastors and churches across the area.
“Everyone was touched by the massacre of the nine people in Charleston,” said Scott, “and the fact that it happened in a church and that it was a historical African-American church that has done much to address certain injustices, so it just seemed that the nation’s heart was broken. The loss of those victims while they were in church worshipping God — It wasn’t something that I could just ignore.”
The pastors hoped that the service would serve as the starting point for a new discussion about race in America.
“Many strides have been made in race relations in years past, but there is still much work to do to live out God’s intention of harmony and unity within God’s creation,” Pastor Kimlick said.
“Prayer is powerful, but it’s time to follow up with some corresponding actions,” Scott said.