Two stark scenes play out in Charlotte over the last two days. Last night, violent protesting raged on until the wee hours of the morning. Today, weary and sober attenders linger past the hour at noonday prayer at Warehouse242, a flipped warehouse turned church on Wilkinson Blvd. Weekly, pastors and lay leaders from across West Charlotte gather with a bare agenda; to pray for the city. Today, the scene is a quiet, humble, and sobering sanctuary with a small band of black, white, asian, hispanic, young and old intercessors sprinkling the front seats. The loud question filling the silent room is how will the pastors and community leaders respond to both violent protesting and a rising sense of deep injustice within the racial divides that slice through Charlotte. The prayer meeting is attended by both West Charlotte minorities and the white business elite of Uptown. For one hour, once a week, these seemingly insurmountable barriers take a back seat to simple prayer.

Kim Summerrow, an elder at W242 posts to her Facebook wall, "Heartbroken this morning? Come to the noon prayer service at Warehouse 242 to lift our voices in prayer in unison standing beside and for our brothers and sisters. Worried that you might not have time to grab lunch? Perhaps Christ is prompting you to fast. Come for 10 minutes, or the full hour, but come." 

Pastor Kenneth Gilliard, Senior Pastor of Christ Resurrection Church on Freedom Drive locks arms with the Pastor of Service at Warehouse242, Marc Dickmann. The two men stand in harrowing silence before Pastor Kenneth begins to pray. Gilliard and Dickmann started noonday prayer a year ago when the two men, one black and one white, wanted to set weekly time aside to pray for West Charlotte. Soon, representatives from area churches began attending the meetings, and within a few months it became clear that the group was to pioneer an open dialogue on what racial reconciliation looks like in West Charlotte. In addition to Wednesday prayer, the group now meets one Sunday a month to help coach their community through an open dialogue on issues that plague West Charlotte, least of which is racial tension.

Jimmy McQuilkin of Urban Promise Charlotte, read aloud a prayer that Yolanda Pierce, the Elmer G. Homrighausen Associate Professor of African American Religion and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary, penned in response to the Ferguson shooting and the start of the #blacklivesmatter movement:

Let us not rush to the language of healing, before understanding the fullness of the injury and the depth of the wound. Let us not rush to offer a band-aid, when the gaping wound requires surgery and complete reconstruction. Let us not offer false equivalencies, thereby diminishing the particular pain being felt in a particular circumstance in a particular historical moment. Let us not speak of reconciliation without speaking of reparations and restoration, or how we can repair the breach and how we can restore the loss. Let us not rush past the loss of this mother’s child, this father’s child ... someone’s beloved son. Let us not value property over people; let us not protect material objects while human lives hang in the balance. Let us not value a false peace over a righteous justice. Let us not be afraid to sit with the ugliness, the messiness, and the pain that is life in community together. Let us not offer clichés to the grieving, those whose hearts are being torn asunder. Instead… Let us mourn black and brown men and women, those killed extrajudicially every 28 hours. Let us lament the loss of a teenager, dead at the hands of a police officer who described him as a demon. Let us weep at a criminal justice system, which is neither blind nor just. Let us call for the mourning men and the wailing women, those willing to rend their garments of privilege and ease, and sit in the ashes of this nation’s original sin. Let us be silent when we don’t know what to say. Let us be humble and listen to the pain, rage, and grief pouring from the lips of our neighbors and friends. Let us decrease, so that our brothers and sisters who live on the underside of history may increase. Let us pray with our eyes open and our feet firmly planted on the ground Let us listen to the shattering glass and let us smell the purifying fires, for it is the language of the unheard. God, in your mercy… Show me my own complicity in injustice. Convict me for my indifference. Forgive me when I have remained silent. Equip me with a zeal for righteousness. Never let me grow accustomed or acclimated to unrighteousness.
— Yolanda Pierce

Without pretense or hot emotion, the prayer meeting drew to a close. Black and white church goers from different communities rose from their seats to head back to work, but first, a hug. Across the room people of different races greet each other with gazes of understanding and solidarity.

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