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Local religious leaders pray for Ferguson

BY KATIE PAXTON kpaxton@paducahsun.com

Area religious leaders gathered Monday at Heartland Worship Center to pray for residents of Ferguson, Missouri, and to establish a sense of harmony between the churches in the region.

The event, titled "Pray for Ferguson," consisted of pastors and other church leaders from neighboring counties. The gathering was not a communitywide event, but rather an opportunity for pastors to pray together, according to the Rev. Nathan Joyce, senior pastor at Heartland Worship Center.

"We're concerned that the events in Ferguson could negatively impact race relations right here," Joyce said. "We think it's the churches' responsibility to set the tone and lead the way."

Joyce said he collaborated with the Rev. Raynarldo Henderson of Washington Street Baptist Church to address the racial tensions in Ferguson and discuss how to prevent the tension from spreading to western Kentucky.

"God has given us stewardship over hearts and lives and minds, and that's not something we should ever take lightly," Joyce told fellow pastors at the gathering. "God has given you the authority to be an influence in your church. We as pastors set an example to our communities and our congregations."

Joyce reiterated that the gathering was not meant "to solve all the problems with Ferguson," but "to pray and plead with the problem-solver."

Henderson agreed that the pastors are important in guiding the people and "to make sure Paducah is not a potential Ferguson, Missouri."

"If we can have pastors trusting each other, we can have the people trusting each other," he said. "Ferguson needs healing, and that's what we want to pray about."

Several pastors led the group in prayer for Michael Brown's family, the community of Ferguson, the children and schools in Ferguson, and the future of Paducah as a community.

"We have white churches, we have black churches, we have Asian churches," said the Rev. Michael Donald, pastor at Pathway Baptist Church in Calvert City. "We should know that's wrong. We're still divided. This is an opportunity for us as pastors to get this one right, and lead our congregations right."

After the prayers, the group discussed what they could do as pastors to unite despite the different cultures of their churches, as there are not necessarily racial issues but different cultural issues, according to the Rev. Anthony Walton of Christ Temple Apostolic Church.

"We mentioned repentance of racism in our community, but it's in our churches as well, and we know that," said Joyce. "This (gathering) is something that's needed."

Contact Katie Paxton, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8655.

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