Mission Mississippi organizes pray-in after shootings
By Stephanie R. Jones
Churches across the state were asked to set aside consecrated prayer time Tuesday in the wake of major gun violence events across the country in recent weeks.
Mission Mississippi organized the pray-in, in response to police shootings and deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philander Castile in St. Paul, Minn., as well as the shootings targeting Dallas police officers where five of them were killed during a beforehand peaceful protest march.
The Baton Rouge and Minnesota shootings added to a long list of black men killed by police under questionable circumstances in recent years.
“The message of the prayers was unity and a need to discuss frustrations without violence,” said Neddie Winters, president of Mission Mississippi.
For 23 years Mission Mississippi has been working with Mississippians to bring about racial reconciliation and healing around the state.
“We have a place where we can share this love that God has given us,” Winters said. “The prayer also included the living out of the gospel, the grace of God, of Jesus.”
Winters said they also prayed for healing of the wounded in Dallas, the wounded in Baton Rouge, the wounded across the country.
He said the prayer event also challenged believers in Christ to make his words of love a lifestyle. “Loving, praying, forgiving,” Winters said.
Pastor C.J. Rhodes said when he saw the video of Sterling’s shooting it seemed so up close and personal.
“It made me grieve for his family,” said Rhodes, who participated in Tuesday’s prayer gathering.
“It also made me think about being a black man and the father of two black boys,” Rhodes said. “Now we have to respond to the madness. We saw what happened in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, Dallas, so it was just a week of compounded grief.
“Sometimes as a church we want to rush past the grief, rush past the pain. But in the book of Jeremiah and Lamentations there is space to lament, to weep, to ask questions,” Rhodes said
“So I would hope that as we pray for unity, we don’t rush past the pain of the moment.”
Rhodes added, “We don’t need truces, we need truth. The only way to get truth is by dealing with the hurt, pain and injustice and through that comes a better resolution.”
Other ministers who participated in Jackson were the Rev. Thomas Perkins, the Rev. Jerry Lindsey, the Rev. Mark Mitchell and Rick Canada.
Other lay people came to pray.
Paige Haven, who handles public relations for Mission Mississippi, said when she saw reports of all the shootings she searched for a response from God. “The response was ‘get on your face before Me.’ My husband literally found me face down in the bathroom in prayer,” Haven said. “It was what I was compelled to do.”
Winters said Mission Mississippi seeks to provide an avenue for dialogue among races in a non-threatening environment. “(We are providing) a place where you can sit down and talk without being attacked, an atmosphere where you can have disagreements and yet come together,” Winters said
“This is not a reaction to what has happened. This is our continued response as a mission and movement of the body of Christ, what we’ve been doing for 23 years, bringing people together,” Winters said.
Stephanie R. Jones can be reached at srjones13@gmail.