Pastors, faithful pray for unity

Published 11:26 am Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Rev. Anthony Askew knows difficult conversations are coming, but he says God must come first.

That’s why he and half a dozen other pastors organized a Community through Unity prayer service for 9 a.m. Saturday, just hours before some 200 people were expected to rally in support of the family of a teen beaten during an encounter with Troy Police.

“We have to come together and discuss things that will cause hurt and pain on both sides,” Askew said after the service. “But we can only do this through Christ. If not through Him, we’re coming with our own pride.”

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Just moments before, Askew had watched as more than 80 people – of all ages and races – joined hands in the sanctuary of the First United Methodist Church to sing “Amazing Grace.”

“This was good,” he said of the morning’s service. “This is what we need.”

The Rev. Steve Winton, pastor of First United Methodist, set the groundwork for the prayer service. “I truly believe the turmoil we are experiencing is temporary,” he told the crowd. “It can do two things. One, it can drive us further apart or two, it can pull us closer together.”

He, like the nearly dozen others who spoke on Saturday, urged the crowd and the community to turn to god for hope, guidance and grace to provide unity in the face of division and challenges.

“A year and a half ago, Pastor Anthony (Askew, Christian Life Church) and Pastor Dewayne (Norman, Bush Memorial Baptist Church) had a desire to bring unity through community,” said the Rev. Luke Lane, pastor at First Baptist Church. “This morning is a part of that. God is going to do something we could have never imagined.”

As the gathering pastors spoke, they shared prayers for God’s mercy and intervention; for healing and for understanding.

“We acknowledge our sin before you, our sin of racism … our sin in how we don’t treat others as we should” said the Rev. Michael Alsup, of First Presbyterian Church. “And we know that if everyone who sits in church on Sunday walked after you, this place would be so different.”

The Rev. James McClure, pastor of Cornerstone of Life Church, reminded everyone that the crisis faced today will pass, but the community will continue to have challenges.

“After this incident blows over our life is still here,” he said “And I pray Lord, help me to be like you … to make a difference in somebody else’s life …

“Jesus, help us to be like you because these circumstances are going to keep happening, and I need to be like you in how I respond.”

Brian McLendon, a Troy Police detective and pastor at Antioch Church, challenged the crowd to become disciples not just inside the walls of their churches.

“Last Thursday after lunchtime I got into a foot pursuit with a robbery suspect … I was like a linebacker in my heart and I had anger in my mind,” he said “As we caught this person and got him to the station, we both said some things we didn’t mean …

“The first thing I told him as I went into that interview room was ‘I’m sorry’ and he told me the same. The first thing he did was hold out his hands to me and we prayed together … and he told me, ‘I prayed to God this morning that before this new year he would take this warrant off me. I didn’t expect it to be like this.’”

But, McLendon said, the prayer that united police officer and suspect is what is necessary to build bridges and trust in the community. “It’s bigger than a man in a uniform; it’s bigger than this church … even though we didn’t like each other for an instance, when we left that room we were both changed.”