09/22/12 — Making sure God remains in Goldsboro

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Making sure God remains in Goldsboro

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on September 22, 2012 11:41 PM

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Matt Wildman raises his hands in joyous praise as the Bethel Church Worship Band plays during the God Belongs in My City prayer rally at Goldsboro High School. More than 1,000 people attended the rally Saturday at Goldsboro High School.

Some whispered their prayers, clasping hands with loved ones.

Others loudly sang of how blessed they were.

Still others walked silently, praying for the city and county they call home.

In the face of community violence and discord, organizer Terry Jones said the God Belongs In My City prayer walk held Saturday was aimed to be a response to the string of murders committed in and around Goldsboro this year and to be a call to action by churches for residents to take back their city.

The crowd of people, numbering in the thousands and stretching more than two blocks long, stopped at predetermined areas to take part in group prayers led by senior pastors, all asking that those gathered be empowered to make sure that God remains foremost in the city of Goldsboro.

Jones, the associate pastor at Place of Refuge Ministries, walked ahead of the congregation, which included participants representing different races and denominations. He said that Goldsboro's people needed an opportunity to come together in opposition of the "darkness" that threatens the area, brought on by violence and negativity.

"We just needed to be confident that things are going to get better," he said.

The event began with a praise and worship concert that culminated with a powerful prayer by Andy Stovall of The Bridge church, who proclaimed that Goldsboro belongs to God.

The march started and ended in front of Goldsboro High School. It first headed east to Audubon Avenue before turning south. Walkers paused there, north of Ash Street, to pray before heading south and turning west onto Walnut Street.

The congregation stopped once more at the corner of Jackson and Walnut streets, where one of the pastors listed off each municipality in the county before proclaiming, once more, that "This place belongs to you, Lord."

The march then carried on, with participants cheering and applauding loudly as they crossed each intersection, waving to stopped cars.

"This is the time for churches to come together," Jones said as the group moved west before going north back to where the walk began.

The "God Belongs in My City" prayer walks have been held worldwide since 2009 and there are plans to take the tour to Haiti in October. There have been similar prayer walks everywhere from Rocky Mount to Liberia and Switzerland to British Columbia, but they all aim to do the same thing -- galvanize residents in a display of faith to reclaim their city.

Although the God Belongs In My City organization calls upon Christians to change the world in emulation of Jesus, Jones said ahead of the walk that the event was for all religions to come together to reclaim Goldsboro.

The initial walk, held in New York City, was in response to critics of faith and featured more than 1,500 youths from all five boroughs coming together to pray over the metropolis.

Nearly 2,000 people were on hand for Saturday's event, but Jones emphasized that the walk wasn't as important as what those who participated would do in the coming days to change Goldsboro and Wayne County for the better.