On Wednesday, July 6, in the wake of Alton Sterling’s death, more than 30 United Methodist pastors from the Baton Rouge area gathered for a rare meeting at the Conference office. The meeting was rare not in the sense that black and white pastors of small and large churches met, but rather because the meeting had no agenda.
District Superintendent Ken Irby started the meeting with a simple statement, “Let’s talk.”
One by one, pastors shared their thoughts and concerns, questioning what they could do, what they should do and even what they shouldn’t do.
In lieu of written statements, some sort of action needed to occur and that’s when Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey reminded the entire room, “When we don’t know what to do, we pray.” and the consensus became clear.
Quickly, a prayer vigil was scheduled for the following day in the middle of downtown Baton Rouge.
Under a blazing sun with temperatures in the mid-90’s, Bishop Harvey and nearly a dozen pastors did what comes natural - read Scripture, pray and sing. View the prayer litany led by Bishop Harvey here
“We offered a witness that God cares about injustice and that the church cares about injustice,” said Rev. Susie Thomas. “We wanted to lend our prayers, presence and passion to do whatever we can to help.”
Rev. Colleen Bookter said the prayers allowed space for those lamenting and grieving. “Our prayers prompt us to action, to create change. It brought us, United Methodists across Baton Rouge and the larger community, together.”
Rev. Dr. Derrick Hills shared those sentiments, reflecting on the solidarity of standing together as one body. “As I stood and listened to the reading of the Scriptures and the prayerful thoughts of our Bishop, I was well aware that God's presence was and is with us and the entire Baton Rouge community.
The vigil ended with linked hands and voices raised to the tune of “This Little Light of Mine”, a song written 96 years ago and based on Matthew 5:16, "In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven."
Story by Rev. Todd Rossnagel, Director of Communication Strategies