Prayer vigil: ‘We’re going to stay united’

Published 3:00 am Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pike County residents packed the gymnasium at the Troy Recreation Center Tuesday to pray with pastors from Pike and Barbour counties for healing in the nation and unity in the community.

The vigil was organized by Anthony Askew, pastor at Christian life Church, in response to the police killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, as well as the slaying of five police officers in Dallas and three officers in Baton Rouge.

“If we ever needed to come together and seek God’s healing for our nation, it’s now,” Askew said at the vigil.

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Despite the tragic events that inspired the vigil, the mood was anything but somber. Sheila Jackson, tourism director for the City of Troy, led the attendees in an upbeat rendition of “He has made me glad,” which was met with raised hands and hallelujahs from the crowd.

Several pastors, black and white, led the crowd in prayer.

“We’re not going back to the 60s,” prayed Louis Johnson, pastor at The Vine in Troy. “We’re not going to take the bait of the enemy. We’re going to stay united. We will not accept fear, but instead we say ‘peace.’ We pray for the healing of this rift that is trying to come between the races.”

Willie Blackmon, pastor at New Life Christian Church, also led a prayer.

“We pray tonight to lift up the families that are suffering tragedy at the hands of nonsense,” Blackmon said. “Tonight, we’re looking to the hills where our help comes from.”

Mayor Jason Reeves, Troy Police Chief Randall Barr and Sheriff Russell Thomas also spoke during the vigil.

“This job has always been tough,” Thomas said. “But that’s why we chose it. We love serving people. We want to make a positive impression on the community. We’re here for you and we can do better when we’re united as a community.”

Barr said that the outpouring of support from the community has been encouraging at a time when law enforcement is under heavy scrutiny.

“These are trying times for law enforcement,” Barr said.

“Recent events shine a light on the dangers we face day to day. It’s been a pleasure to hear the support of the community in the past few weeks. We strive to serve you the best that we can every day.”

Mayor Reeves emphasized the importance of the community coming together to create unity in divisive times.

“It is so important right now that we are together,” Reeves said. “I’m so glad you’re here to show your support of the community and to pray. I promise, there is nothing that the good Lord can’t handle. We all need kindness and forgiveness.”