Prayer gathering

AUTUMN OWENS/WD PHOTO

The New Hope Baptist Church Brotherhood organized a peaceful prayer gathering at the Parker County Courthouse Tuesday evening to support removal of the Confederate statue on the courthouse lawn.

Church officials and community members came together Tuesday evening for a prayer gathering in support of removing the Confederate statue from the Parker County Courthouse lawn.

The gathering was organized by the New Hope Baptist Church Brotherhood.

“Statues are not history. They are to glorify and honor historical figures, maybe they represent historical happenings, but it’s not history itself. To me history needs to be available for those seeking it,” New Hope Baptist Church Deacon Mark Stafford said. “This is not history and taking it down is not going to reduce history, but it does represent something that has happened in our history. So the questions we need to ask ourselves looking at all people is, is it hateful to any group of people? Is it hurtful to any group of people? Is it demeaning to any group of people? Is it oppressive to any group of people? If we can answer yes to those, then I don’t think it needs to be here.”

Debate has surrounded the removal of the Confederate statue with petitions circling for and against in Parker County. The county commissioners met on June 22 for discussion and public comment, but took no action after questions arose on the ownership of the statue.

First United Methodist Church Pastor Joseph Nader said there is an opportunity to create change now.

“We have a moment in history that’s in front of us to really make major change. We have been distracted by a major problem that is still in front of us because many of us have believed racism is gone. But our black brothers and sisters are telling us it’s still here,” Nader said. “I believe in what’s called communal repentance — I don’t believe I’m a racist, but I know in the past there have been racists so we’re going to ask God for forgiveness.”

Local historian James Gray provided some context surrounding the Civil War, reading from historical documents, including the Declaration of Immediate Causes.

“The Declaration of Causes of secession ... are actually articles that the states wrote to the [Federal] Union to explain why they were seceding from the union,” Gray said. “You had Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. In these articles, slavery is mentioned 80 times. In Texas, in its Declaration of Causes alone, slavery is mentioned 21 times.”

Gray’s speech was interrupted by a man who approached the group saying the Confederate statue was “for fallen American soldiers” followed by the yelling of obscenities. The man then left the gathering with no further incidents.

During the gathering, music was provided by Church at the Crossing Worship Pastor Philip Meadows and other comments and prayers were presented by New Hope Baptist Church Pastor Curtis Jefferson, Executive Director of the Parker Baptist Association Brother John Thielepape, New Hope Baptist Church Deacon Jeff Brazzell, Jim Eggleston and Today Church Hudson Oaks Pastor Aubrey Robertson.

“I have come to realize that my silence speaks louder than my voice,” Robertson said. “So I’m here to stand with you.”

The prayer gathering ended with the group walking seven laps around the Confederate statue, represented of the walls of Jericho from the Bible.

“It just kind of comes from what they did in the Bible in walking around the walls of Jericho seven times hoping that the walls will come tumbling down, that’s what the Bible talks about, but we don’t want the statue to come tumbling down. We just want to see it removed, that’s the whole thing we’re trying to do,” Brazzell said. “It’s just time for it to go. Our objective was to offer up prayers, read scripture and sing praises to the one who has the power to make change. Only God can change hearts. We were unified in our message as was witnessed by the different denomination pastors and others who showed up in support. We await the future outcome. May God bless our commissioners and county judge. God’s timing is always perfect.”

The commissioners are expected to meet at 9 a.m. on July 13; however, items for discussion have not been released at this time.

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