Prayer Vigil Brings Divergent Faiths For Unity Message

Jul 12, 2016

Leaders from five area religious denominations came together last night for what is becoming a hallmark of Bloomington-Normal’s Not In Our Town efforts -- a bringing together of all faiths and even those questioning their faith. This time it was for prayer service, including a reading of names and moment of silence for victims and the families of shooting victims in Dallas, Minnesota and Louisiana.

The Reverend Frank McSwain from Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Bloomington delivered a fiery message in which he called racism a moral issue.

"And because it's a moral issue we need to move past political. We have to jump past economics." McSwain continued with his voice rising with every sentence, "We have to move past socialism because we have to go right to the source for which it is necessary for us to fix all this stuff because we broke it."

McSwain said the message was simple and is repeated often and in many ways throughout the Bible.

"God said love one another as I have loved you," he preached to a packed First Christian Church. There were about 400 people filling pews in the sanctuary and balcony.

The vigil included chanting, or a Sholka (Song) to bring in light by local Hindu Priest Divaspathi Bhat. Imam Abu Emad AL-Talla of the Bloomington mosque Masjid Ibrahim provided a meditation on light and the service included a later reference to the Martin Luther King quote, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can drive out darkness."

Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe of the Moses Montefiore Temple in Bloomington issued a call to action which could be different for each person. "We can't just stand here after this night. Think about what you can do to make a difference in people's lives."

Senior Pastor Jim Watson of First Christian Church said he's tired of holding vigils and rallies. "I'm tired of us saying we are going to do something and then we don't." He suggested, "Reach out to those who are different from us. Build a community of compassion."

Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner said he was heartened by the turn out at First Christian Church and the standing ovation given officers there, but he said the people who need to hear the call for unity, empathy and tolerance were likely not there to hear it. The challenge, he says, is reaching that group.