A Prayer Walk in Ferguson

A different landscape since Saturday
As protests since the death of George Floyd continue, now in even more countries across the globe, a special prayer walk took place in Ferguson, MO on Thursday, June 4. This event was organized by the North County Pastors' Group, a collective of churches which originated following the death of Mike Brown.

These churches, my own included, have hosted an annual event called Unity Sunday for the past 4 years, from which I have personally benefited whether as attendee or participant. These events have allowed opportunity for predominantly black and predominantly white churches to gather together for fellowship, prayer and worship, and have included pulpit swaps between the pastors. As we've grown to know one another, this prayer walk was a significant next step in joining together, this time outside church walls and into the community.

The evening began and concluded in the parking lot of First Baptist Church of Ferguson, where we prepped and prayed before heading down the street to the Ferguson Police Station, now largely boarded up due to rioting which occurred after my time there on Saturday. The goal was not only to pray for the community, but to listen to those in the community and pray with them as appropriate. There was opportunity to do so with several individuals, including a police officer, a protestor and at least one of the artists now working on positive messages in front of the station.

Additional prayer suggestions included prayers of repentance, for justice and righteousness to prevail, for understanding and bearing one another's burdens, for healing and meaningful systematic change, for discernment and for blessing.

Gathering at First Baptist

Artists now being allowed to work out front

One group prays with an artist

Praying with an officer

Opportunities for listening and dialogue

One story of a protestor particularly caught my ear. He explained that earlier in the week, peaceful protestors were chanting, "I can't breathe," echoing the words of George Floyd as a policeman held a knee to his neck. A Christian group outnumbered the protest group that night and, whether intentionally or not, proceeded to drown out the their voices. Not surprisingly, this was seen as purely frustrating and disrespectful, tainting any message the Christian group may have attempted to share as well.

While I was not there to witness the event or know the intentions of either group in this case, it was clear that this man felt ignored and unheard by "religious people," giving me pause to consider the delicate but significant balancing act of our communication. While there are appropriate times to stand against, we must also be sure to use discernment in our delivery and approach if we truly wish to reach people for Christ. As stated in my previous post, we must listen in order to truly hear and learn in order to truly love. Our message, the message of Jesus Himself, will never be heard if we even inadvertently ignore, dismiss, overpower or speak past all other views and voices. Even—and perhaps especially—if we disagree, we must remember the power and importance of acknowledging and respecting others created in the image of God if we too hope to be heard. Quick to hear. Slow to speech or anger.

This makes me even more thankful for God-given opportunities even in and around this event for respectful dialogue with individuals of various ethnicities and ages as we all continue to process with and learn from one another.

Work in progress—in more ways than one

Groups in prayer for the community and our nation

I am also excited at the answer to prayer of lately seeing some prayer events covered by local media, this evening included, allowing the voice of the church to be more broadly heard. (See the full story page here.)

I am so grateful a last minute meeting cancellation freed me up to attend this significant evening. I have historically found my way to similar events in response to racial concerns on my own, so it was deeply encouraging to this time pray alongside a number of individuals from my own church as well. Various limitations and commitments had also prevented me attending other prayer events this week, including a rally near the Gateway Arch on this same afternoon—a landmark where I've desired to see group prayer happen. Though I was unable to join both events, I praise the Lord this actually did happen, and that we are seeing multiple prayer events continue and grow during this time.

Church, continue to watch for and share prayer events from groups like Civil Righteousness, NOCO Pastors, 10 Days of Prayer - St. Louis or in your own local area. Let's continue to be that light in the darkness, powerfully and respectfully bringing the Lord's presence into our communities.

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