by Maria Ferraro
Captions/Photos by Marcy Patterson
Click on photo to start captioned slideshow.
While outrage over the death of George Floyd and many others can be heard all over the country, one local pastor decided to team up with one of his attendees to do something about it locally.
Shane Allen, lead pastor at First Christian Church (FCC), asked Sam Holmes Jr. if they could get together and discuss. “During a time like this, our actions speak so much louder than our words,” Allen said.
Tuesday afternoon, Holmes and Allen met at Allen’s church office. Allen was tearful when asking Holmes how FCC could help this situation locally. Together, they talked about how to assist in efforts to unify the community.
They ultimately decided to host a prayer event at the town square on the evening of Friday, June 5. FCC posted the event on Facebook and the community came together. “We have to figure out how to move forward, and we have to do it in love,” Holmes said.
At 6 p.m. on Friday in downtown Jacksonville a crowd gathered. Men, women and children of every background stand side by side. The Jacksonville Police Chief, Adam Mefford walks towards the group and stands at the edge of it. Five officers in uniforms stand to one side of the group, with their hands clasped in front of them, two officers stand on the other side. The crowd listens as Ryan Turner, an Elder from FCC opens with prayer.
Turner walks back and forth as he speaks to the crowd, he says, “We need to see each other as God sees us. He made us uniquely different, man, woman, white, black, whatever … He made us, and He loves us.” The crowd listens and agrees with “amens” and quiet applause. Around the square, occasional horns honk and motorcycles speed by.
When Turner finishes, Holmes walks to the center of the sidewalk. “Can you all hear me?” he asks. The crowd responds, “Yes!” Holmes says, “I don’t know who needs to hear this, but I want you all to know that I love you.” Listing groups in the community and his family he says, “I love you.” Pointing to the five police officers on his right, Holmes says, “I love you.” The crowd claps.
Holmes grew up playing sports with some of the police officers. A bright smile comes to his face. Pointing to an officer, he says, “… It makes me proud to see people I grew up with on our law enforcement.”
When Holmes finishes, Turner says, “We want to go to the Lord in prayer.” The FCC Youth Pastor Zach Nave comes and whispers to Turner. Turner says, “If you guys feel up to it, join hands.” Someone responds, “Elbows! Bump elbows!” Laughing, people clasp hands or touch elbows. Nave prays for unity.
After prayer, people linger to talk. A police officer walks up to Holmes. They shake hands and hug. “Keep praying for us,” Holmes says to the officer as he walks away.
Holmes’ family is wearing masks and seated at a picnic table at the edge of the group. His wife holds a sleeping boy while his two other sons stand by. Three girls walk over to greet them. They talk and laugh together like friends. Holmes comes over and joins the conversation. When they say goodbye, the girls take a selfie with the Holmes family, saying, “Let’s get together some time.” They just met.
People hug, talk, and laugh. The event was supposed to end at 6:30 p.m.; the last group of people left at 7:20 p.m. Holmes said, “We’re not as divided as the storyline would like us to believe.”