Matt Porter participated in the Community Prayer Service at Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church on July 11th along with others from Trinity City Church. Church leaders organized this time of prayer because of the tragic loss of lives in St. Paul, Baton Rouge, and Dallas. In this post, Matt summarizes this amazing evening of unity, lament, and prayer. Pictures are from Transform MN and Carl Nelson.
“Where sin runs deep, Your grace is more. Where grace is found is where You are. And where You are Lord I am free. Holiness is Christ in me.” On Monday night at 7:00, several hundred brothers and sisters in Christ from many races, generations, and congregations around the Twin Cities worshipped God together with these lyrics in the tightly packed sanctuary of Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis.
Greater Friendship Reverend Billy Russell, President of the Minnesota State Baptist Association, started the night’s discussion by impleading the church, “We need to be together at a time like this . . . This Christian life is a life of love, and that love is expressed in unity.” He spoke about the recent tearful tragedies in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and especially the Twin cities with the shooting deaths of Philando Castile and two-year-old Le’Vonte King Jason Jones. Reverend Russell encouraging the church that “As long as there is love, we will stand.”
Pastor Jason Meyer of Bethlehem Baptist Church led congregants in lamenting not only recent events, but the larger history of the church’s toleration and even justification of slavery, discrimination, and a host of societal ills. He encouraged the church to gather at the throne of God. Only from strength found at the throne of God can we show the truest love and pair loving words with loving actions.
Karl Nelson of the church-equipping ministry Transform Minnesota introduced local pastors and church leaders, including Bishop Richard Howell of Shiloh Temple International Ministries, Bethel’s Campus Pastor Laurel Bunker, and North Minneapolis community ministry Hope United’s Executive Director Reverend Richard Coleman, who led congregants in corporate and small-group prayer. Bishop Howell and Reverend Coleman referenced the story of Jesus’ weeping and raising Lazarus from the dead found in John 12, noting the importance of lamenting what the church has allowed our society to become, yet also trusting in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ.
Pastor Bunker instructed “It’s important that the church be people out on the streets.” She encouraged Christians to think about places of darkness in society where we may be uncomfortable going, and praying for God to burden our souls with those communities until we take action. Pastor Bunker will be joining an expected one million people coming together in Washington, DC on July 16 to pray for our nation (more information at Reset 2016).
Reverend Alfred Babington-Johnson, CEO and President of the ministry Stairstep Foundation, reminded the church that “we have work to do” and read Ephesians 2:10: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (ESV).” He reported action steps that Pastors of the local African American Church Coalition have recently discussed and approved in order to combat violence in the community that is largely attributable to economic and educational deprivation of as well as discrimination against the African-American community. The four major action steps Reverend Babington-Johnson reported are:
Raise $100,000 over the next 12 months in order to put youth workers into the community. $25,000 has already been raised toward this goal.
Provide job training for former inmates, addicts, and others “folks coming out of the dark into the light.”
Continue partnership with Stairstep, Merge, and other ministries and Minnesota legislators to secure GED funding.
Train 100 pastors in “mental health first-aid” and equip black psychologists to better address the “state of trauma” that the African-American community is living in.
Reverend Babington-Johnson encouraged local churches to join in prayer and cheerful giving in order to make these goals a reality. More information on this recent initiative can be found at Transform MN's website.
After songs of worship, Urban Refuge Reverend Terrence Rollerson concluded the service with prayer. Many gathered stuck around after the service for fellowship and to make connections.
Feel like you missed out? Don’t worry—Reverend Billy Russell was happy to say “We’re gonna do this again.” Stay tuned at Transform MN for more information on future gatherings.