GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — A large crowd gathered in Gallipolis City Park for the Gallia Prays event, hearing messages focused on justice and unity.
“We are living in dark, gloomy, terrible, unsettling times, yet God is in charge of the forecast,” Pastor Christian Scott of Paint Creek Baptist Church and one of the organizers of the event, said. “If we will unite and humble ourselves, I believe God can still do something great.”
The event, which was originally scheduled for Saturday, June 14 but had been rescheduled for this past Wednesday due to weather, came in response to the killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day. A video showing former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinning Floyd (who died in police custody) by the neck went viral after the incident. Black Lives Matter protests, including two in Gallipolis, and one in Pomeroy, have occurred across the United States and even in other countries. The local protests were all peaceful events, as was Gallia Prays which focused on justice.
“We cannot discuss the life of Jesus without his awareness of injustice and dedication to destroying unjust systems,” Joe Bowers, a pastor at Gallipolis Christian Church, said. “The victory of Jesus not only removes hostility between man and God but killed hostility between fellow human beings.”
“Our greatest problems are never around us, but within us,” said Aaron Young, pastor of First Baptist Church.
“We are not here to condemn the practices of those fighting injustice,” Gene Armstrong, a pastor of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church and co-organizer of the event, said. “(God) wants you to stand when people are mistreated. He wants you to stand when justice does not flow down.”
Unity was also a major theme of the night.
“It astounds me how much we’ve been walking in fear,” Jon Mollohan, a pastor at Vertical Church Gallipolis, said. “We step in to love the black community. The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” He added that the church was made to “love without limit, forgive without condition, to fellowship without prejudice.”
This sentiment was echoed by others.
“As people of faith, we must step out of the fear and into the boldness of building relationships (with others),” Jamie Sisson, a pastor at Fellowship of Faith, said. “There is no definition of ‘the other’ in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“Young or old, black and white, all God sees is saved and lost,” Randy Carnes of Elizabeth Chapel said. “That’s the only way we should classify people.”
Some pastors emphasized that, while injustice should be fought, injustice is a reality that will never completely disappear.
“We are going to have injustice, inequality, hatred,” Armstrong said, “but we should not sit. But the hatred will be here until (God) comes.”
The event also featured singing from the Unity Singers. Bottled water, which was provided by local law enforcement, was distributed. In case of rain, the event would be moved to the Elizabeth Chapel gymnasium.
Those who spoke at the event included Christian Scott, Jon Mollohan, Randy Carnes, John O’Brien, Thom Mollohan, Ray Kane, Aaron Young, Joe Bowers, Jamie Sisson, Jamie Gruber, Gene Armstrong, and Marlon Griffin.
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Sharla Moody is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing from Gallipolis, Ohio. She is a graduate of River Valley High School and currently attends Yale University.