Healing, peace and hope.
That’s what people asked of God at Tuesday night’s community prayer vigil at Trinity United Methodist Church.
The vigil may have been prompted by recent acts of violence in the county, nation and world, but the true reason for the service is broader than that, said the Rev. Mack McClam, Trinity’s pastor.
Some people seem to think that “the church is always reacting to something,” he said. “And that bothers me.”
“I will not stand here and tell you that the happenings in our city have not been on my mind ... when the Spirit led me to ask us to come to prayer,” he said. “But that is not why.”
He said the people gathered at the vigil were united in a single purpose: to ask God to continue to shower his blessings upon them.
“Our voices are resonating out of this church, but our prayers are uplifted before our God to bless his people in every corner of this world,” he said. “That’s why we come.”
“Show me a place where healing is not needed. Show me a state that cannot use more peace. Show me a world that is not in dire need of hope,” he said.
Those gathered for the vigil prayed, sang hymns and, at the end of the vigil, linked hands in unity, singing “We Shall Overcome.”
“Our city is joined together to show our strength,” Orangeburg Mayor Michael C. Butler said. “When we bring our community leaders together, that shows strength, that we are survivors ... that nothing can happen in this city to hold us hostage.”
He praised the strength of the city’s residents and the “many Christians here of every denomination who have gathered to show the strength and the power of this community.”
“This community will prevail. It has always prevailed,” he said. “We will never let the evilness of the enemy overtake us and bring us into bondage.”
Reading from Psalm 40, the Rev. Mary Haggard, director of the Orangeburg Wesley Foundation, said, “O Lord, do not withhold your mercy from me. Let your steadfast love and faithfulness ever preserve me.”
“No more,” she said, reciting words she wrote after a recent shooting. “No more lives taken in an instant. No more blindness to the fact that we are all precious children of God.
“No more crying mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers. No more wondering why someone would do such a thing.”
“Please, Lord, no more,” she said.
The Rev. Dr. Ernest Etheredge, Claflin University’s interim chaplain, read from Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi.
“Do not be anxious about anything. Rather bring up all the requests to God in your prayers and petition, along with giving thanks,” he said. “Then the peace of God that exceeds all understandings will keep your hearts and your minds safe in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”
“Our world is mean-spirited,” he said. “And you can see the actions of that on every corner, in every city, every town and every village.
“It is up to the church of our Lord Jesus Christ to take her stand in the community of faith and to deliver to the people of God the work of God that will bring peace and quietness and gentleness upon God’s holy people,” he said.
Etheredge said there are countless passages in the Bible that show “Christ was about peace.”
“Peace on Earth and goodwill to all people was the theme and the foundation of his coming into the world,” he said.
“We are here this evening to celebrate God’s peace,” he said. It is bigger than the city, the universities, the county, he said.
“It is larger than the world because it is a peace that represents God’s holy kingdom,” he said. “And we are the instruments of that peace.”