Hundreds gathered in Marshall Park in uptown Charlotte Saturday morning to pray for the city in light of the upcoming Democratic National Convention.
The Rev. Robbin Black, an associate pastor of Abundant Life Church International, on West 32nd Street in Charlotte, said she organized the citywide prayer to help protect Charlotte as people from around the world attend the convention.
In a couple of weeks, the worlds eyes will be looking at Charlotte, Black said to the crowd. But more importantly, God will be looking at Charlotte. Will he find faith in Charlotte?
Supporters cheered Blacks opening speech as a band kicked in and a choir began to belt worship songs. Dancers dressed in white and gold robes and carrying brightly colored flags lined up beside the chorus.
Several prayer leaders took turns at the lectern following Black to direct the group in prayer. Topics ranged from peace for the nation, government officials and youth, to safe demonstrations, dismantling of planned terror attacks, safety of first responders and the homeless.
Denise Gibbs, an event organizer, said she prayed for an end to sex trafficking in the Charlotte area a national industry that exploits an estimated 200,000 children each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice website.
Theres about to be a mass of people coming for the DNC and we want to pray for them, Gibbs said.
Participant Pam Crawford, of Charlotte, echoed Gibbs thoughts and said she also prayed for a lack of drug and sex trafficking during the DNC.
According to a 2011 annual report by the Mecklenburg County Womens Advisory Board, North Carolina is ranked in the top eight of all states for human trafficking. The report suggests the reason for the high ranking maybe due to the ease of use of Interstate 85 and Interstate 95 as thoroughfares.
Its important to guard the gates of our city, Crawford said. This is our city and we are responsible for what goes on.
The skyline of Charlotte served as a backdrop for the Christian event. Black said she positioned the prayer in the park to surround the group with the citys key functions: Government, banking, education and the church.
I just want people to see the city of Charlotte as God does, Black told the Observer.
Husband and wife Tonya and Alvin Barnes, of Charlotte, said they felt called to participate because they want to make a positive impact on Charlotte and help erase negativity. We have to be in tune, not only physically, but spiritually as well, Tonya Barnes said.
Danielle Coats, a student at Northwest Cabarrus High and youth group member at Abundant Life, said she planned to pray about the flaws she sees in Charlotte. There are too many people living in the streets and a lot of people are strung out on different drugs, said the 16-year-old.
This is the first citywide prayer event sponsored by Abundant Life, but Gibbs hopes it will become an annual event.
The mass prayer by the church will not be the only religious congregation to use Marshall Park before the national convention. Thousands of Muslims will take to the park Aug. 31 for their Jummah prayer, or Friday prayer.
I believe people coming into our city (for the DNC) will leave our city as changed people, Crawford said.