Rev. Margaret Tyson, Pastor of Allen Chapel AME, led the Prayer Vigil held at the church on Sunday
By Portia Williams
If ever there was a time in the city of Portsmouth that an ecumenical effort displayed love, compassion, and concern it was Sunday at the Prayer Vigil held at Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Nearly 100 people came out to show their support for the tragedy of nine shooting deaths which occurred at Emmanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015.
Rev. Margaret Tyson, pastor of Allen Chapel, said previously that she desired for the prayer vigil to be one of celebration and reconciliation, and indeed it was just that. At least 11 different local churches were represented, and the sanctuary of Allen Chapel was full.
Tyson said the prayer vigil was truly a blessing to her, and she is very appreciative of the support from the community.
“I just feel blessed that we could come together. I felt like it was our responsibility as an AME Church that we should lead, but it did not just have to be our service,” Tyson said. “And, we were allowed to do that, and the place was full. The hand of God was evident in this, and my heart is just filled with so much joy from the support from the community that we received today.”
Heartfelt prayers were spoken by members of local clergy, expressing words of comfort, hope, dismantling of racism, and hopes of healing and unity. Rev. Steve Cuff of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Min. Teressia Bowen of Cornerstone United Methodist Church, Deacon Tracey Henderson also of Cornerstone, Pastor Clarence Parker of Pleasant Green Baptist Church, Overseer David Malone of Kingdom Builders Evangelistic Ministries, Inc., and Rev. Tyson, all led the individual prayers.
Portsmouth City Councilman, Kevin W. Johnson also attended the vigil. Tyson said she’d extended an invitation to Portsmouth City Manager Derek Allen, but was told by Allen that he would be out of town at the time the service would be held.
Betwixt the prayers, Rev. Tyson led the group with hymns so befitting for the occasion.’My Faith Looks Up to Thee,’ ‘Peace Like a River,’ and ‘It is Well With My Soul,’ are the hymns that were sung which incite hope, encouragement and faith in God, even in the midst of darkness and despair.
Henderson said the congregation of Cornerstone was outraged by the tragedy in South Carolina, and that she and her family wanted to come and show their support.
“We were so appalled, upset, and shocked by what transpired in Charleston, South Carolina. What else can you do, other than come together and pray as a community?,” Henderson said. “Staying in our own individual houses of worship is not the solution, we must come together and show solidarity that God is going to prevail in the situation. We really hope that we can continue, and not wait for the next tragedy, but continue to unite as a community.”
Tyson said many other people expressed a desire to come together, beyond the South Carolina tragedy.
“Several people said to me that they want to do something else, we don’t just want to meet in times of tragedy,” Tyson said. “It is a wonderful thing that the worshiping community can come together and step out in faith and say, “We won’t let evil prevail.”
The Prayer Vigil concluded with such a beautiful sight to behold, and ended on a high note, if you will. Everyone in the sanctuary held up hand-held tea candles, with battery-operated lights, as they sang, ‘This little light of mine. I’m going to let it shine,” in unison. Mourning appeared to be replaced with warmth of smiling faces, as people hugged one another, shook hands, and engaged in conversation afterwards.
Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.