Stressing a need for unity and to seek comfort in God, about 100 Carroll County citizens joined together for a Peace Prayer Vigil on Sunday in the wake of the recent shootings that have shaken the nation.
One day after Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were shot dead by law enforcement in separate incidents in Louisiana and Minnesota, a gunman killed five police officers and wounded seven more July 7-8 at a Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas, Texas. On Sunday, a crowd of both white and black residents from the area joined officers from local law enforcement agencies at the Historic Carroll County Courthouse for a Peace Prayer Vigil in response to the events.
Reverend Daniel Harrison of Elk Spur United Church of Christ in Fancy Gap asked participants to come together and pray for unity, peace, and love in the event organized by the Carroll County Ministerial Association. He said he called Reverend Daryl Beamer, pastor at Bethany Baptist Church in Woodlawn, on Friday asking him if they should do something for the community.
“He said Daniel, ‘We’ve got to get together. We have to come together as a community.’ I said, ‘Do you want to do that in Galax?’ He said, ‘No. No, I want to do that in Carroll County,’” said Harrison. “I said, ‘Reverend Beamer, thank you so much for considering our community.’ We are far and wide. A big county. So we appreciate the love and respect all of you are showing today by being here. I thank all these ministers and all the congregations that have shown up. And I thank our men and women in uniform here today. And we want to honor them, honor all the people in the community as equals. We love you all as God loves you all. We have several people who will come up here today and we just want you to pray with us and embrace everyone through prayer.”
Beamer told the gathering that everyone there was a child of God, all created equally.
“We are grateful today we can come together. Our law enforcement, we are all peacefully joined together in our heart and our spirit because he has made us all our brother’s keeper,” Beamer said. “We are all Christians and we all love each other and comfort one another. We know the word of God says God is our refuge and our strength. He is our very present help in the time of trouble. This world we live in and our country, there seems like there is a lot of turmoil, but we have a comforter and his name is Jesus. The Lord is my rock and my salvation. God wants us all to know that we are all his children and we are stronger together. We know our law enforcement is here to protect each and every one of us, to stand by us.”
He reminded participants the Bible tells Christians to cast their burdens upon the Lord who will sustain them. Beamer said those who labor and are “heavy laden” will be given rest by God. He said to know whatever we are going through today, know we are standing together as one body in Christ. Then, the Reverend talked about how far we have come as a society in a particularly powerful testimony.
“My roots started here in Carroll County back in 1856. I am the great grandson of a slave that was brought right here to Carroll County. And if my great grandfather Hezekiah Douglas Beamer could see me standing on the courthouse today he would say, ‘Wow, there is my great grandson. Look what he is doing. He is telling everybody about the Lord.’” Beamer said. “I am honored today. I am humble today. I thank you for this opportunity you have given us just to be a witness and I can tell you this – I love everybody. The Lord loves everybody and I am grateful he has given us this time to speak today.”
Chaplain Vernon Landreth of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department said he hoped people across the nation will come together and have the same vigils.
“These brothers and sisters of mine in uniform are the watchmen for our community. But I have a hope today that we would all become watchmen for one another,” Landreth said. “When we see our brothers struggling, see our brothers and sisters hurting, I have a hope that we would be watchmen for them and we would go render aid to them and to help them because the Lord said you shall know you are my disciples because they see you love one another.”
Reverend Amanda Hatfield Moore told a story from the Holy Bible where a priest at the sanctuary at Bethel orders the prophet Amos out of the country, telling him he cannot criticize their king and government.
“Amos was having none of that. He said God sent me to prophesize and I will tell you the truth.” Moore said. “Christians are called to be prophets and part of that means honestly naming what is broken in society.”
She said Christians must say words like racism, violence, hate, fear, suspicion and indifference.
“I do believe sometimes we need that holy rage of the prophet, but I would also say for us here today we are called to be something a little different from Amos. We are called to be Christian prophets. We do name what is broken. We name it boldly. We demand better of ourselves and of our brothers and sisters,” said Moore. “But because we are Christian prophets we get to say it is not too late. We get to say God is not finished with us yet. Grace is not gone from this world. Forgiveness is not out of reach. We can come into new life. We can have something better than what we have had before. Be honest but have hope. We can do better, we can live fully inside the kingdom of God. If we pray for God to send us peace, that means we must prepared to give peace to each other. If we pray for God’s love we must love each other. If we pray for unity we must reach out to our neighbors and be a unified community. Walk as Christian prophets, be a blessing to each other.”
The program’s speakers also included Reverend Hal Sonafrank, pastor of Coulson Church of the Brethren, Woodlawn; Chaplain Stacy Redd, Carroll County Sheriff’s Department; Reverend Robert Smith, pastor of First United Methodist Church of Hillsville; Chaplain Jeff Holdaway, Carroll County Sheriff’s Department; Reverend Amanda Hatfield Moore, pastor of Hillsville Christian Church, and members of the Bethany Baptist Choir.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on [email protected]