UNION — Hundreds gathered for a local prayer vigil held to celebrate unity, love and fellowship on Wednesday.
The Pacolet River Baptist Association hosted a prayer vigil Wednesday evening, and churches from within the Union County Baptist Association were invited. Several churches within the county cancelled their weekly Wednesday evening services to join the vigil.
Pastor James Mason welcomed those in attendance and prayed for “loved ones — lost and remaining — in Charleston.”
Mason said Wednesday’s gathering was to celebrate unity, love and fellowship in Union County. He said there was one underlying theme: “Love conquers hate.”
Brad Goodale — pastor of Philippi Baptist Church — said he was thankful for the leadership of Pastor Mason.
“This is what can happen,” Goodale said, looking out at the full building.
Goodale echoed Mason’s message of love instead of hate.
“We don’t riot; we have a revival,” Goodale said.
Philippi Associate Pastor and Union County Baptist Association moderator Tommy Mann said he prays for Dylann Roof. He compared Roof to the apostle Paul, who was a murderer.
“I heard someone say he can’t be forgiven, but the apostle Paul and the New Testament says he can,” Mann said. “I pray for him to be miserable with conviction — not just guilt — and for his salvation.”
Messages of love continued throughout the service.
One local pastor said, “We as God’s people — residents of Union County — need to stand with one another and by one another with Christian love. We need to realize love is the answer to all our problems. This is the beginning of a time of love and unity — not as single races, but as God’s children.”
Another local pastor cited 2 Samuel, and he said hearts have been broken for a long time, and it took a tragedy to bring people together. He then said, “God can change all situations. Nothing is too hard for God, but you must seek Him for answers. it can’t be legislated; God is the answer. He is the only answer.”
Pastor Josh Freeman also spoke, reading Ephesians 2: 13-14:
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were once far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”
Freeman said he heard a reporter ask how family members of the victims in Charleston could look at Dylann Roof and forgive him.
“It’s not by might, not by power, but by faith in Jesus Christ,” Freeman said.
Mann said the event was not a one-time thing, and the relationship between the Pacolet River Baptist Association and the Union County Baptist Association is an ongoing one. He said plans are moving forward for events with both associations in the future.