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7-12-16 Adventists Gather in Washington, D.C., to Pray, Call for Action
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By V. Michelle Bernard/Columbia Union Visitor 

 
Adventists, many wearing red shirts, march together toward the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial for the July 9 rally.
Photo by Julio C. Munoz

 
 

On July 9, 2016, more than 1,000 Seventh-day Adventists gathered in Washington, D.C., to pray, mourn, and acknowledge the killing of two black American men and five Dallas police officers. The group, most symbolically wearing red shirts, walked together from the Lincoln Memorial to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
 
Those present assembled to pray and listen to church leaders share words of encouragement, love, and action. “This is not a protest. This is a coming together of people of like minds to join hands in like faith and like purpose to pray for our nation,” said Debra Anderson, one of the event organizers and a member of the Potomac Conference’s Restoration Praise Center in Bowie, Md. “We are in perilous times . . . . We are going to pray today more than anything else. This is about human dignity, human life.”
 
Addressing the Silence
 
“In the midst of the heated rhetoric regarding the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, God placed in my spirit that across the nation a significant population of our church community was hurt and confused,” said Anderson.
 
Anderson explained that she, and Emmanuel Brinklow church member Denise Crarey; Miracle City member April Williams; and the Allegheny East Conference’s Washington Metro Ministerium, planned the march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Martin Luther King Jr., Memorial in Washington, D.C., to combat the silence, confusion, and lack of empathy many felt following the deaths.

 
With Alex Bryant, NAD executive secretary, and Dan Jackson, NAD president, listening in the background, Debra Anderson speaks at a rally where more than 1,000 Adventists gathered at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, on July 9.
Photo by Julio C. Munoz

 
 

“When someone dies, when we are grieving . . . sometimes it is the ministry of presence that allows us to feel better. Today all of you are exhibiting a ministry of presence,” she said to the crowd at the memorial.
 
“You didn’t come here just because of a Facebook post. You came because you knew something in your spirit said, We’ve got to do something, and we’ve got to pray before we do anything else.”
 
Making A Difference
 
Several church leaders, including G. Alexander Bryant, North American Division executive secretary, denounced the killings. “The church is called to speak truth to power, no matter how unpopular or how inconvenient. . . . Many are now asking the question, what should we do? What should the church do? What would Jesus do? Jesus is not here today, but through us. He left us a formula and the formula is love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them who despitefully use you.”
 
Daniel R. Jackson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, said, “The problems in America cannot be easily [fixed]. . . . Jesus said, ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its [savor], . . . It is then good for nothing’ [Matt. 5:13, NKJV]. The church cannot afford to stay behind its walls of comfort. We must reach out to our world. We must be the agents of hope, and compassion, and healing in a fractured world.” 

 
Alex Bryant addresses more than 1,000 gathered at the MLK, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Julio C. Munoz

 
 

One of the other speakers, David Franklin, pastors the Allegheny East Conference’s Miracle City church in a Baltimore neighborhood less than six miles from the spot where Freddie Gray died in police custody last April. Franklin’s church participates in service designed to break cycles of poverty, incarceration rates, and help improve education levels. Franklin encouraged the crowd to get active and work to help communities similarly impacted. 
 
“You cannot afford to wait for the organizers of this march to pull together events and activities for you to participate in so you can resolve the issues in your community. The key to solving our issues is everybody realizing the power that you have in your own hand," said Franklin. "You need to go home, get in your prayer closet, figure out what you can do and then move out and make a difference.”

Franklin added, “We need this to be the beginning that creates an avalanche of change that continues until Jesus comes.”
 
Moving Forward
 
“We will not find political solutions to these problems,” said Jackson. “Jesus says, ‘My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid’ [John 14:27]. We must make personal determinations — we personally will commit to the ideals that Jesus taught. 

 
Adventists gather on July 9 at a rally at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial to pray, mourn, and acknowledge the recent killings of two African-American men and five police officers.
Photo by Julio C. Munoz

 
 

“The effect of Christians must be felt. We want to be a force of love in our world.”
 
Anderson said, "We are in prayerful consideration of what God has for us to do in the immediate future. We know that the synergy experienced as we came together in like mind must be developed for the greater good of our communities and ourselves."
 
In an effort move to forward with purpose and action, organizers have devised a 3-point plan they are encouraging churches in the area to take: 1) Engage in a ‪#‎westandforall day of service in our local communities to enhance the quality of life for our neighbors; 2) Attend workshops by local law enforcement agencies on executing the proper response when stopped by law enforcement; and 3) Address the issue of voter apathy with voter education forums and voter registration.
 
—NAD Office of Communication staff contributed to this report. Watch the 3-minute NAD video of the event.
 
 
 

North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904-6600 USA
Telephone: 301-680-6400
Fax: 301-680-6464
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