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Community raises Selma up in prayer

Men, women and children gathered seated in small circles with their eyes clenched shut and heads tilted toward the floor. Their hushed voices echoed off the white cinder block walls. One by one, they laid out their hopes, wishes and needs before the Lord. The beauty is in the simplicity of the act, Ralph Derryberry said.

“Prayer is the most powerful tool Christians have,” he said. “We have direct access to His throne.”

About 30 people met at the Carl Morgan Convention Center for a monthly prayer vigil Monday night. Mayor George Evans organized the event with hopes it would bring the city together. Evans said the vigils provide citizens a forum to discuss Selma’s future outside of City Hall. With God’s help, Evans said better days would come.

“I’m sure prayer changes things,” Evans said.

The vigil seems to be growing, too. Jacque Johnson attended her first meeting Monday. Johnson, who moved to Selma from Cincinnati, Ohio four years ago, said she just wanted to help unite the community. Selma is a town she has grown attached to, like a mother with child.

“I really love the community,” Johnson said. “It’s not perfect, but I really enjoy living here.”

Johnson left early to attend another meeting across town, but she said every little bit counts.

“A half hour of prayer is better than none at all,” she said.

Ward 1 city Councilman the Rev. Dr. Cecil Williamson said those little bits are adding up to a larger whole.

“There seems to be a better spirit, a spirit of hope,” Williamson said.

Attendees felt that spirit moving those four walls like a blustery March wind. Open palms reached into the air and amens floated right up toward the ceiling. Some folks brought black Bibles the size of a brick and some carried red copies of the New Testament that were small enough to fit in a back pocket. While they prayed about many different things – unity, reconciliation, city and county leaders, the economy – each person had Selma on the mind.

The Rev. Coley Chestnut stood behind a podium with both hands raised into the air. He prayed for unity, but said it would not come without change. And the only way that change would come is with the help of the Lord, he said.

“We pray that we will change the way that we walk,” Chestnut said. “Change the way that we think. We call out for it right now.”