New Groups Join Hands to Pray Across Borders
By Sarah Steele Wilson
Sep 24, 2012, 13:13
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson
The vision and mission of the OC3 was summed up by the joined hands of the prayer circle that formed in the Ashford Civic Plaza on Friday night.
“A grassroots organization of churches and concerned citizens uniting ourselves for the restoration of hope, healing and the well being of our city with a mission to change lives,” is how Elder Joseph Mavin, from the United House of Prayer for Vision and History and president of OC3, described what could be seen in the joined hands in words.
OC3, the Organization of Churches and Concerned Citizens, began in January when area leaders began to think of what could happen if members of the faith based community in the area joined forces to work together and met to develop a plan for working as a team.
“We do believe that all things are possible if you only believe, and therefore the meeting included pastors from different denominations, backgrounds, religions and races,” Mavin explained.
On Friday, the group met in the park between the Hopewell courthouse and city administration building to “Pray before Hooray,” offering up hopes, wishes and plans for the city.
“Prayer changes things and things are changed through prayer,” Mavin said.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Concerned citizens gathered in Ashford Civil Plaza on Friday to Pray for Hopewell before the weenend festival.
The group, which includes pastors, leaders and members from at least 10 area churches, as well as representatives from other civic organizations, wants to help address the needs of the city and stand against what Jeff Butler, Pastor of Woodlawn Presbyterian Church, described as, “the brokenness in our city.”
“We started praying about this over a year ago, and we’ve just been slowly putting the building blocks together,” Butler said, describing his involvement with OC3. “Starting with prayer and now it’s leading into action.”
Basing the OC3 on successful faith based partnerships in Richmond, Hopewell churches realized that pooling their resources and working towards a common goal was more likely to create a change in the city.
“I don’t need to tell you that our city has problems,” said Pastor Mike Browder from First United Methodist Church addressing the group on Friday. “We have challenges, and if God’s people do not stand together to address the needs of our city, who is going to?”
Currently the group meets every other Tuesday at the Hopewell Library and every Wednesday , from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. at the Fountain of Life. They plan to change the host location monthly. They also plan to start entering the neighborhoods in the city and are planning a prayer walk through the troubled area.
On Friday, Police Chief John Keohane, who attended the Pray Before Hooray meeting, invited the group to join him on command walks through the city to meet with people face to face.
“When you help people and you show that you do care about people, it brings people together,” he said. “That is so important to me.”
He spoke on some of the issues facing the city and the youth and senior initiatives he hopes to start to combat those problems.
“Yes, we do have issues in this city,” he said. “We have substance abuse issues. We have crime issues. Not as much violent crime. Violent crime is down almost 40 percent, which is great. However, property crime is up.”
Elder Kenneth Branford, prayer chairman of OC3, said that the organization hopes to do its part by serving as gate keepers for the community and working together to “take back what the devil stole from us.”
“It’s not a black thing, it’s not a white thing, it’s a Kingdom thing,” he said.
He said that Jesus walked the streets to heal people and give them hope and said that is what the OC3 intends to do too.
“We recognize that the people of the city are hurting and every congregation, in some form or another is dealing with members who are hurt and it is our job, as church leaders, to start the healing,” Mavin said, speaking to that message.
Although it can occasionally be difficult for churches to put aside denominational differences, the leaders in Hopewell spoke of a determination to do so.
“We’re going to put down the boxing gloves, we’re going to stop hiding behind our barriers and our closed doors and we’re going to come together as leaders for the greater good of the community,” Mavin said.
“If we can bring all of us together and touch and agree on the situations and the problems that are going on, then God will hear us and he will inspire us to come together and change those things that need to be changed,” said Bishop Thomas Blanding from TLB Ministries.
The tone of the gathering on Friday was jubilant, with Taesean Blanding getting the group clapping and saying to a sing along to “What a Mighty God we Serve” and other spirituals.
Taesean Blanding also reached out to the youth, calling upon members of his generation to set good examples for other young people in the community.
All the speakers from all the different denominations said they were united by faith in God and prayer and a common love for Hopewell.
“Lord, we come together tonight because we have a heart for this city of Hopewell, our home, and for the people who live here,” Browder said.