ST. PETERSBURG – All around the Tampa Bay area, candlelight and prayer vigils were held for the nine individuals who senselessly lost their lives in Charleston, S.C. because of racial violence.
Unity of Midtown and Greater Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church both sponsored memorial tributes and prayer vigils honoring the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., Rev. Sharonda Singleton and congregation members Cynthia Hurd, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson and Ethel Lance.
People of various faiths and ethnicities gathered to lift their voices in prayers for the victims’ families, friends, the entire Charleston community and the country.
Last Thurs., June 18 Rev. Dr. Doral Pulley from Unity of Midtown woke up that morning and knew what he had to do. “This was laid on my heart early this morning in my own time of prayer and meditation to call the church together for a special time of prayer,” he said.
After watching the horrific events played out on the television, he knew he must call the community together and ask the Holy Spirit for help.
“We come tonight to ask the Holy Spirit to revive our hearts again; to renew our faith again; to restore our hope and our courage again. We are here to light candles symbolizing the presents of the Holy Spirit that is in each one of us, and to remember and to pray for the families,” Pulley stated.
Friday night, the service at Greater Mt. Zion, where Pastor Clarence Williams watches over his flock, was about hope and forgiveness.
Hope for all to join hands, all faiths and denominations and all ethnic groups in the world to band together against hatred.
Speakers came forth and discussed those victims that they knew personally; all spoke with respect and love. A senator, a mother of the church, a librarian, reverends, patrons, and youths – they all had contributed to their community. Their loss is resonating throughout America, and felt by all.
This was not an isolated incident, but rather one of years of racial tension and controversy over the right to bear arms. Both topics were poignantly discussed by the speakers. Rev. James Vincent Williams said “that the time when our minds are blind we need to forgive.” Rev. Casabell Taylor emotively pointed out that we come together in our places of worship when it is “difficult to get up or keep our food down.” He talked about the suspended feeling of hopelessness and asked, “What will come out of all of this?”
The second call for us as a nation was to engage in meaningful conversations about race, about the divide, the race war. The call to the congregation was that this is not a Christian event, but this is an event for people of all faiths and honor. Taylor declared: “They want us to divide as a nation, don’t say and act as if there is not a race war.” He warned that “when we want reciprocity and pay back, many innocent lives will be lost.”
With the testament of the power of prayer, attendees left with a solution. Using the chosen scripture, Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
We need to “channel hatred into a productive power, a force, and realize that all life matters,” he said. When anyone is violated in their place of sanctuary, their place of worship, their homes, everyone feels the violation.
Grief counselors were available for those who attended.