Ministers, civic leaders to join together for public prayer event

An event in Albemarle planned for Saturday looks to unite people across racial and social backgrounds peacefully for the causes of fighting racism and social injustice.

The Unity Prayer event will be at 9:45 a.m. at the Courthouse Square Park in downtown Albemarle and will feature a number of local ministers speaking and praying along with city officials.

Albemarle Mayor Ronnie Michael and Police Chief David Dulin will speak at the event along with Pastor Bill Baldwin of Harvest Church, Brian Wright from Boomerang Church, Dr. Anita Owens-Scott from New Direction Life Ministries and more.

Matthew McNeil, associate pastor at New Direction Life Ministries in Norwood, said the prayer event is happening in part because of the recent events in Minnesota with the death of George Floyd.

“We believe prayer is a major key to evoke change in our communities. Pastors have a great influence and they help to shape the views their congregations have,” McNeill said.

McNeill said there is a big divide in churches not just in this community but all over, adding churches of all colors, races and backgrounds “have to come together.”

“We want to be proactive. We will not just talk saying this needs to happen,” McNeill said. “Everybody must come together as one.”

The slogan for the event has been around the number one: “One Voice. One Mission. One Victory,” while a verse in the Bible, 2 Chronicles 7:14, has been a central passage for the event.

“When we come together, this is what we will experience,” McNeill said.

Saturday’s prayer event will be the first of several events, he added, including a unity prayer planned for the South Albemarle community.

McNeill said people have to change their thinking about these issues.

“Not only does the white American need to change their thinking and their perception of things, the African-American has to change their thinking and how they view and perceive. Everyone has to be educated,” McNeill said.

He said being more visible in the communities is necessary in order to impact the kinds of change that needs to be in the school board, police department and politics.

Organizations such as the Stanly chapter of the NAACP as well as the United Way have helped to organize the prayer event. Salem Taylor, executive director of the United Way, said she was honored to be included in the planning of the event and that she “admires the people have been inspired to bring the community together.”

“This year has generated a lot of fear for everyone, with the pandemic already creating a sense of anxiety and isolation,” Taylor said. “We see the tragedies unfolding across the nation and wonder when it will happen here. When we are scared, we stop listening. This is a call to listen. We must listen to one another and learn from another in order to prevent further tragedy in our community, as well as create an action plan to ensure equity is a priority in every facet of our lives.”

Attendees are encouraged by organizers to wear masks and practice social distancing as well.