GALLIPOLIS — On Sunday, local churches in Gallia County will be hosting an interdenominational prayer meeting called Gallia Prays at 6 p.m. in Gallipolis City Park.
“The event is to show the unity of the pastors in the area when it comes to justice, and how we as the church stand,” Pastor Gene Armstrong, a pastor of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church and co-organizer of the event, said.
The event comes over two weeks after the death of African American George Floyd, who died while in police custody. A white police officer, Derek Chauvin, was shown in a video pinning Floyd by the neck to the ground with his knee. The incident, and the viral video, sparked nationwide Black Lives Matter protests and riots.
Last week, hundreds peacefully protested Floyd’s death at Gallipolis City Park and the Gallia County Courthouse. Chauvin, now a former officer, is facing charges in Floyd’s death, including, according to media outlets, “second-degree murder – unintentional – while committing a felony.” Media outlets also report three other former officers are now facing charges of aiding and abetting in relation to Floyd’s death.
“We believe that there are times for protest,” Armstrong said. “The world has a different way of doing it than we do, but I think that we’re more effective when we work together.”
At least 17 churches attended an organizing meeting for the event, Armstrong said, as well as Gallia County Sheriff Matt Champlin and Gallipolis Chief of Police Jeff Boyer.
According to a post on the event’s Facebook group by Pastor Christian Scott, a pastor of Paint Creek Baptist Church and co-organizer of the event, the event is “a worship service that will feature speakers, singing, prayer, and togetherness.”
“We are in agreement that there are social injustices,” Armstrong said. “The whole movement of Black Lives Matter, we believe it also. So it’s mainly a thing of prayer for our city and our county and for the hope that we come together, as a city, as a county, religious base and those who are not religious, and that we do it in a way that furthers the movement.”
Armstrong believes that protest and Christianity are not mutually exclusive.
“We can do this simply by following what God’s plan is,” Armstrong said. “He’s never said that we could not demonstrate. He’s never in his word said that we could not protest. Those things are needed to bring those issues to life, where people who don’t understand might gain that understanding for why it is needed.”
The event will adhere to social distancing protocols. Attendees are encouraged to wear masks. According to the event’s Facebook group, bottled water will be provided by local law enforcement.
The Gallia Prays event is open to the public.
Beth Sergent contributed to this article.
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Sharla Moody is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing from Gallipolis, Ohio. She is a graduate of River Valley High School and currently attends Yale University.