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Prayer vigil Sunday for Charleston shooting victims

By Susan Shinn

For the Salisbury Post

A community prayer vigil is set for 8 p.m. Sunday at the Bell Tower, located on the corner of West Innes and Jackson streets in downtown Salisbury.

Members from churches throughout the community, as well as the public, are invited to the 30-minute service to honor the nine people who were killed Wednesday evening at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.

Dr. Jim Dunkin, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church, in Downtown Salisbury, is spearheading the event. The Bell Tower is a remnant of his congregation’s second structure, which was razed in 1971. Its central location makes it a frequent gathering spot for downtown events.

As Dunkin drove through Downtown Salisbury on Thursday, he decided that the community needed to do something to come together around this horrific event. Later in the day, he got calls from pastors and friends, who suggested the same thing.

Dunkin was instrumental in bringing the Missions of Mercy free dental clinic to Salisbury on two occasions.

“If we can get people together for that, by golly, we can get people together for this,” Dunkin said Friday afternoon.

Plans were still being finalized late Friday, but Dunkin said that many local congregations would be participating. The vigil is set for later in the evening not only because of the oppressive heat this past week, but also not to interfere with any Sunday evening services, he said.

Dunkin is contacting traditionally white churches, and the Rev. Tim Bates is contacting traditionally black churches. Bates serves as pastor for Cameron and Calvary Presbyterian churches in Statesville. Both are taking advantage of social media to spread the word quickly.

“Jim called me today and said, ‘We have to do something,’” Bates said Friday afternoon. “This is a moment in time where we just can’t sit still. Prayer is great, but you have to move into action. I was glad we were all thinking on the same page.”

“There is no color in church,” Dunkin said. “The church needs to support the church. I had a call this morning from someone who said that the most segregated hour of this week is still Sunday morning. If we don’t use this to change that, then shame on us. We’ve got to do something in this moment to change that.”

That often-used quote is attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King, who also said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

That’s the goal of Sunday evening’s event.

“We’re stronger together than we are apart,” Bates said, “and quite frankly, we need one another.”

Both pastors want the vigil to be the first step in improving race relations here.

“I don’t want this to be a Band-Aid,” Dunkin said.

Bates agreed.

“Because things are better than we used to be, many say we don’t have a problem, but we do,” he said. “We want to do what we’ve been saying we were gonna do all along. We have to quit being reactive and be proactive. We need to be strategic and tackle these issues. It’s time. If we don’t do anything, we’re gonna lose the battle. Everybody is tired of what’s going on. We want peace.”

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

 

 

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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