Prayer vigils in Winston-Salem area comfort hearts and decry racial hatred

Prayer vigils in Winston-Salem area comfort hearts and decry racial hatred
June 25
00:00 2015

In photo above: Bishop Marvin Cremedy prays silently during the public prayer vigil held at Vessels of Honor Church Ministries, 3608 Ogburn Ave., on Tuesday, June 23. The special night of prayer focused on the Charleston church slaying tragedy and churches around the world. (Photo by Erin Mizelle for the Winston-Salem Chronicle)

By Tori Pittman
For The Chronicle
Donna Rogers
The Chronicle

On Wednesday, June 17, a white man entered in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, and opened fire, taking nine lives. In the awake of the shooting, a lot of churches have come together, praying for the victims’ families, the church and the entire city of Charleston.

In Winston-Salem, prayer vigils have been held since last week. They have drawn large and small crowds, but they all have expressed the grief that the apparent racial slaying has brought and hope in God.

On Tuesday, June 23, Vessels of Honor Church Ministries (VHCM ) in Winston-Salem held a prayer vigil in remembrance of those whose lives were lost, while praying for the nation. A small sanctuary was filled with words of encouragement while uplifting one another in this time of tragedy.

VHCM member Dawn Darbone began the vigil by reading different scriptures from the Bible. Pastor Clara Cremedy followed with her words of prayer to the victims of Charleston.

“This tragedy has affected all of us in this country,” said Pastor Cremedy. “Families were affected. Someone lost their husband, wife, mother or father.”

Ten people were at the vigil, at some point either speaking or praying to themselves.

Bishop Marvin Cremedy talked about how the victims’ families have shown forgiveness, and the unity that’s happening in Charleston after this incident.

“No matter the color of the skin, no matter the complexion, no matter the culture, no matter the law, we are all of one race, and that is the human race,” Bishop Cremedy said.

Bishop Cremedy continued the prayer and particularly prayed for Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old white man arrested in the slayings of the nine people at the church.

“Sometimes we have so much stuff going on in the world. We have so many voices that are speaking to us that sometimes it confuses our minds, and it’s just who we choose to believe that’s going to determine which way we go,” Bishop Cremedy said.

Pastor Candy York continued the vigil with her thoughts of the Charleston incident, while leading the congregation in saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

“My heart breaks for them. I’ve cried for them,” York said. “I’m so sorry that their lives were taken, but I do see that things are changing.”

York went on to speak of how the media reacted after the victim’s families forgave Roof and the news anchors speaking about God when that subject alone is sometimes unspoken in mainstream.

Another member of VHCM, Lynn Roseboro, stood before the congregation and spoke about what was happening from a spiritual standpoint .

“It is time for us to rise up and to be equipped, and to stop looking at things in the natural, and to see things in the spirit,” said Roseboro. “Yes, it’s a lot going on in the natural, but some of those things are meant to distract us.”

The Confederate flag

She explained about how the story of the Confederate flag is getting major attention now, and how elected officials in South Carolina want it taken down, as an example.

“That flag has been flying for years, but now all of a sudden they’re talking about it so much because they want to take your attention off of what’s happening,” said Roseboro.

Pastor Clara Cremedy concluded the vigil by reciting Ephesians 6:10-20 and saying another prayer, telling everyone to “be encouraged saints” through this difficult time.

On Sunday, June 21, the Minister’s Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity sponsored a prayer vigil at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.

Violence has become a way of life in America, and that needs to give way to non-violence as a way of life, came the word from the prayer vigil.

The scene of the slayings, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, is a historic black church that has withstood violent acts since it was formed in 1791.

Various ministers conducted a worship service as part of the prayer vigil on Sunday, and others said prayers for various aspects linked to the slayings. Prayers were said for the families of the victims, the church, the city of Charleston, racial reconciliation, the perpetrator and his family, social justice and the nation.

However, the talk on gun control by the Rev. Dr. John Mendez, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist, drew a standing ovation.

Mendez says while Christianity and all other religions consider life sacred, the United States is the most violent of all the industrialized countries. He said the annual death rate linked to gun violence in the United States is thousands of times more than other industrialized countries, such as Japan and England.

“If we really take a critical look at what we call our way of life, there’s too much death,” Mendez says. He said there is a perpetuation of guns and violence, promoted by the National Riffle Association (NRA) and others.

“Violence in America is almost like apple pie in America,” Mendez said. The victims far too many times are minorities, poor people and people who dare to be non-conformists, he said.

The religious community needs to raise the level of non-violence “where non-violence becomes a way of life,” not just a method of protest or civil disobedience.

The slayings at the church in Charleston is not the first time churches have come under attack, Mendez said. He mentioned the numerous black church burnings in the South in the 1990s. He said he learned that the churches were being burned by young white men, 19 to 22 years old.

“It’s not an isolated event. It’s reinforced, it’s fed by this climate of hate,” Mendez said.

Mendez said the young man who has been arrested in the Charleston church killings case said, “We want to take our country back.”
“That’s the same we hear from Congress, from state legislators, from governors, from folk all across America. But who are you talking about taking it back from?”

Mendez said the religious community must stand up and become advocates for non-violence and challenge the NRA and others who perpetuate violence.

“The one thing we cannot afford is to become comfortable and used to them [minorities, poor people and people who dare to be non-conformists] being killed. That can never be,” Mendez said.

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Donna Rogers

Donna Rogers

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