Prayer Vigil Stretches Miles to Minneapolis
Story by Tiffany Doss
When crises occur, it’s often a natural response for people to come together to help. As America reeled from the public death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, an idea stretching from Maryland to Minneapolis began to form.
Long-time civil rights activists and event organizers Yolanda Banfield, Bill Ellis and Rocky Twyman say they wanted to evoke a moment for positive change in local communities and a sense of unity versus division.
A Virtual Freedom Ride was born, featuring a 1,106-mile-long journey beginning in Potomac Conference’s Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, with stops in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Columbus (Ohio), Detroit, Chicago and ending in Minneapolis.
Every night for one week, members of the interfaith community, civic activists and local politicians in cities along the way hosted virtual gatherings, sharing words of encouragement and a call to action and prayer for healing in their community and the nation.
The first night included devotions and prayers from church and political leaders, including Dan Jackson, former North American Division president. That evening, Daniel Xisto, associate pastor for the Takoma Park (Md.) church, gave a powerful charge on the collective responsibility in rising against the evil that ensnares the nation.
“When we join in the sacred work of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us, and when we smash the chains of injustice, when we set free those who are oppressed … when we do all that, our God says light will break forth like the dawn, and it is then that the Almighty says our healing will appear quickly,” said Xisto.
Along the route at the virtual stop in Pittsburgh, Jerome Hurst, pastor of Allegheny West Conference’s Ethnan Temple church in Pittsburgh, reminded listeners about the responsibility each share as believers. “As Christians, we are commanded to advocate for the rights of others,” he said. “It’s critical that the church’s voice is the loudest among an upheaval of outrage. The appalling silence of the church is sometimes why the community boils over.”
Shonetel Brown, county council representative for District 9 in Cleveland, offered a prayer of engagement as the virtual caravan continued to Ohio. At the final stop in Minneapolis, Darnisha Thomas, associate pastor of the Southview church (Minn.), shared active steps in place to keep the momentum of partnership with interfaith, community and business leaders moving in a direction to create positive environments within culture and society.
Miles to Minneapolis organizers say this won’t be their last venture into the social justice arena. Twyman says a physical pilgrimage to Minneapolis is a strong possibility.