The Washington Post

Prayer and calls for racial unity in the shadows of Lincoln

Thousands took part in the Washington Prayer Gathering near the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

The pastors of some of the area’s largest congregations mixed prayerful petitions with calls for racial unity during the second annual Washington Prayer Gathering, which attracted thousands Monday to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

The event brought out a racially diverse group of pastors and participants from more than 250 congregations across the region. It was organized by the Rev. Lon Solomon, pastor of McLean Bible Church in Virginia; the Rev. John K. Jenkins, pastor of First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Upper Marlboro, Md.; and Bishop Alfred Owens, pastor of Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church in the District.

While people were asked to pray in small groups across the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial, Solomon used the podium to challenge the local faith community to tear down walls of race and class that he said have prevented people from coming together for centuries.

“We have refused to work together in our arrogance and in our xenophobia,” Solomon preached. “We have neglected to care for the poor, the needy, the homeless, the orphans, the widows and the immigrants, the stranger and the person with disabilities. God would want us to care for them.”

The Rev. Eung Yul David Ryoo of Korean Central Presbyterian Church in Centreville, Va., Carlos Penaloza of Ekklesia USA in Reston, Va., and Steve King of Cherrydale Baptist in Arlington, Va., offered prayers for the sins of the people, the church and the city. Beatrice Smith, prayer warrior of McLean Bible Church, and Perrin Rogers, a minister at Triumphant Baptist Church in Hyattsville, Md., offered prayers for spiritual revival.

Amid prayers and songs of praise, McLean Bible Church Pastor Lon Solomon talks about the importance of Washington Prayer Gathering on Oct. 12. (Hamil Harris/The Washington Post)

Danny Goldsmith, a federal worker from the District who was enjoying the Columbus Day holiday, said he came to strengthen “my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” Prince George’s County political veteran Glenda Wilson of Upper Marlboro said she attended because “prayer is the most important thing in my life.”

With memberships in the thousands, the pastors of McLean Bible, which has mostly white members, and Glenarden Baptist and Greater Mount Calvary, which have predominantly black congregations, said they realized they have great influence. In addition to public events such as the prayer gathering, Solomon says the three pastors began meeting to pray together quarterly after the first prayer gathering.

Phan Vuong of the District spent time in quiet prayer at the edge of the reflecting pool. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

“This is all about pastors from across the area coming together, humbling ourselves, praying and confessing our sins,” Solomon said. “In Jesus Christ, there is a great unity. Race doesn’t matter. Creed doesn't matter. Ethnicity doesn't matter.”

Hamil Harris is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of The Washington Post.



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