As the latest man was inaugurated to the highest job in our country, we attended a prayer vigil at Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton hosted by our congresswoman, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman and Dr. Rev. Darrell Armstrong.
I have no idea how they were able to pull it off so quickly. The church was filled. Rather than spending a lot of time researching details, I'm going to write tonight and hopefully find some good links in the next few days. I'm hoping to find a news story about the vigil, and a link to the service. Bear with me.
Seventeen different religious leaders spoke from a wide variety of religions -- Hindu, Baptist, Lutheran, Islamic, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, and Episcopal. Looking at the list I am surprised I do not see any Jewish names on the list. They prayed on a wide variety of topics from unity, to our leaders, for healthcare, immigration, education, and environment (and more). Their choir sang patriotic tunes. The Pledge of Allegiance was spoken. It was incredibly moving and powerful.
I tried to take a few notes, which is hard to do discretely while also praying. It is how I listen.
Our congresswoman for the 12th district opened by by encouraging us to "leave here with hope and feel unity. Today we shall pray tomorrow we shall march!" She is planning to march in Trenton tomorrow while I am heading to DC in only six hours. She wore suffragist white and in the lobby as we entered her staff handed out purple unity ribbons for unity. Shiloh Baptist Church is her home church. She serves as a Deaconess. Her husband, William Coleman, is a retired pastor from Shiloh.
Next up was Rev. Armstrong. He spoke about building bridges not walls. He also told us their church regularly meets at noon on Fridays, and we are invited back next week, too. "There is no religious litmus test to be an American," he stated emphatically. May it always continue to be so.
The Pastor at Union Baptist Church, Rev. Simeon Spencer, was tasked with praying for our leaders. "Out of the minds of those in charge leads so much to our own feelings of being unsettled. God we believe you are able [to make changes happen? should have taken better notes] even as we are afraid."
Though the preachers did not seem to repeat scriptures cited, or situations (which is amazing with 17 people being asked to speak at the last minute) and overarching theme was that God is in control. We can't sit back and do nothing, but ultimately he is in charge.
When Rev. Mark Broach, the pastor at Trenton Deliverance Center, spoke about education, he said "the President may change, but our God remains the same."
Bishop Earl Jenkins from True Servant Worship and Praise Church led us in the Pledge of Allegiance before praying for justice. "Liberty and justice for all, regardless of who is in charge of the nation." The choir then sang "My Country 'tis of Thee."
Rev. J. Stanley Justice, pastor at Mount Zion AME Church, prayed for workers protection. "It is good to gather together, better to scatter where the real work" needs to be done.
Rev. Delores Watson, Pastor, First Congregational Christian United Church of Christ, prayed for healthcare. She reminded us that "health care has always been important to God the healer," then she cited situations (including Namaan the non-believer) when Jesus healed people.
Rev. Mark Johnson, from St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Trenton (where we once attended a meeting about gun violence) encouraged us to "tear down the barriers others build around us and give us the strength the strive for equality and reason." He spoke for equality, but said it was hard for him to find examples of equality as he kept thinking of situations of inequality.
Bonnie Watson Coleman's husband Rev. William Coleman led the final prayer, the prayer for our nation. He was followed by Rev. Armstrong who said a friend of his told him to pretty much get over it and stop spewing hate from the pulpit. He said he was going to report back to his friend that no hate was spewed, in fact the new President's name was only spoken a couple of times at the end, instead we gathered together to pray for everyone. "Our actions will speak louder than our words." He added "this was not an admonishment, but a prayer that God will endure.
Our congresswoman ended with "I am hoping we are leaving more uplifted than when we came." Indeed I was more uplifted, but stepping into the cold rainy day it was easy to feel down again. The past few months have been draining. Don lost his job. He had open heart surgery. Ashley seems to have lost her confidence. I feel like I spend much of my time cheerleading and encouraging others around me. It was uplifting to hear someone else be the cheerleader to me (and a huge group of people).
The enormity of tomorrow is catching up with me. I hope to blog about tomorrow's march in the next couple of days. I'm not bringing a sign. Instead I'll be armed with my camera and a pen and paper. Pray for our safety.