Greater Love Church holds peace gathering in the wake of Charlottesville tragedy

Brandon Paykamian • Updated Aug 17, 2017 at 10:23 PM

After Saturday’s violent clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left 32-year-old anti-racist activist Heather Heyer dead, there is a strong sense of polarization throughout the country.

Because of this strong sense of divide, local Pastor Mike Cummings held a night of prayer at Greater Love Church Thursday evening. He said the aim of the event was to foster solidarity and unity rather than anger. He was joined by other local church leaders and speakers at the event, all who condemned the violent displays of racism and hate in Charlottesville.

But Cummings said the main focus of the event was to give attendees a time to reflect and pray. He said the church plays a crucial role in bringing people together in a polarized society.

“We really want to solidify the message of solidarity and unity,” Cummings said. “Everyone is concerned about what happened, and the most that we can do is pray about it.”

Cummings said unity during times such as these is a crucial part of social progress.

“If we don’t do this together, it just won’t work,” he said.

Ethan Magness, senior minister at First Christian Church who was among the local church leaders who spoke at the event, said the nation is now desperately looking for a “path of reconciliation and justice that does not go through violence.” He said this period of political polarization is a time for Christians to “rise up and love aggressively.”

“The nation knows that we will not stand for the rise of hatred and bigotry again — we know that,” Magness said. “If we do not rise up and resist evil with love, then the nation will wonder, ‘Who will rise up?’ ”

Like many, Magness said he didn’t consider racism to be much of a problem in this nation five years ago. But after witnessing recent events, he said he has realized white supremacy in particular is something the church and its leaders need to come together and address.

“I think one of the things that’s been very obvious to me — and I will say this last weekend made it even more clear — is that it is easy as a white person to live in a world where you think racism is behind us,” he said. “And if you think a problem is solved, you stop trying to solve it.

“If you asked me about it today, I’d say there’s no doubt about it being a problem.”

Cummings said he believes it is important for local church leaders to encourage others to “transcend” the political division that the nation witnessed in Charlottesville. That, according to him, was the main message of their event on Thursday night.

“Our plight is to share the message of peace and unity and let Christ do the work. He can work this out,” Cummings said. “It isn’t about letting our anger get the best of us. We need to walk this out.”



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