‘Give them faith ... hope ... love’
Hundreds gather for prayer service following shootings
by W. Winston Skinner
“When I relocated from New York to Newnan, I didn’t think I would hear these stories.”
Darryl Smith, director of the local Boys and Girls Club, shared his testimony at a prayer vigil Wednesday night at St. Smyrna Baptist Church. Tamarkus T. Cook, pastor at St. Smyrna, put together the vigil – inviting area churches and pastors to participate – after two separate shootings earlier this week left one man in critical condition at an Atlanta hospital and two others dead.
“We are part of a unique family. Only one thing has brought us here tonight. That was pain. The real pain is not in this room. The real pain is down the street,” Cook said.
Cook urged restraint and forgiveness. “You won’t get peace holding onto a piece. You’ve got to let it go.”
“This is not about church tonight. Tonight is about coming together and us taking a stand against senseless loss,” the pastor added. “This is not about the black community. It’s not about the east side. It’s not about the west side. This is not about gangs. This is about children.” Smith said his mother was a heroin addict, and his brother was a drug dealer – and his sense of security growing up. He remembered his father telling him he would die young.
When he was 18, Smith was robbed at gunpoint. One of the men pointed a gun at him, but the attacker ran when a police car drove by. He said he could have gotten a gun and gone after those men.
“Jesus had a different course,” Smith said. It is time to “put down our swords,” he said.
“We’ve got to be real with these young people and teach them the power of faith, the power of truth,” Smith said.
Smith spoke of the fine suits and elegant education that are often part of church. “They don’t understand that in the hood,” Smith said. “The blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony” can, however, make a difference.
He urged those at the vigil to go to the neighborhoods where the crimes have occurred. “Tell them of your faith – the same faith that was passed down from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. … Give them faith. Give them hope, but, most of all, give them love,” Smith said.
Cook expressed similar thoughts, saying God brought the attendees together “so you can be a contagious virus of peace.”
In addition to Cook, ministers taking part in the vigil were Octavia Samuels, Rufus Smith Sr., Jeremy Tuck and Gregory Upshaw.
About 450 people attended. All ages were present – from babes in arms to grandparents.
A huge wooden cross with a purple drape was centered behind the baptistery. A choir of 10 sang during the service, and a band with keyboards, bass guitar and drums accented remarks and prayers.
Upshaw asked God to send “the spirit of forgiveness in this house, the spirit of reconciliation.” With God’s help, people can “push past… circumstances” and make a difference “if we can be of one accord,” Upshaw said.
Samuels and Tuck offered prayers.
“Go to Eastgate, and let them know Jesus is real. Go to Pinson Street, and let them know Jesus is real. Go to Highland, and let them know Jesus is real,” Tuck prayed. “Come down here to Heery Road and let us know Jesus is real.”
Tuck beseeched God to touch young men in Newnan – to help them “not be part of guns and violence” but grow to be “great fathers, great men.” He also asked God to touch Newnan – “every corner, every highway and byway.”
Rufus Smith, the senior pastor participating, reflected on the horrific events of the past few days. “Remember that God is everywhere,” he admonished.
“He let all this happen so Newnan could come together. Somebody’s going to get saved because God let this happen,” he said.
The losses also serve “to let us know we need one another,” Rufus Smith said. “Whoever you are and wherever you are, somebody helped you to get where you are tonight.”
Cook reflected on the tragic deaths. “I have no answers. There is no remedy. There is nothing that can prevent us being here tonight. It’s too late,” he said.
“I want to speak life. I want to speak life into you right now. It only takes one moment to change your life,” Cook said. “One moment can change your life.”