Members of five different faith-based organizations gathered on Sunday for an interfaith march of meditation and prayer to bring hope and safety to Columbia after a series of shootings in the downtown area.
Participants represented the United Methodist Community Church, Calvary Episcopal Church, Calvary Heritage Baptist Church, Destiny Pointe Church and the Buddhist religion.
The march was organized by Tanya Heath, assistant professor of strategic communications at the University of Missouri and candidate for mayor of Columbia.
Heath came up with the idea after hearing about the violence that has taken place in the city center over the past few months.
âI grew up here so I feel very obligated to do what I can to make Columbia the best it can be,â said Heath. “People were very excited and encouraged to participate. I thought it was such a good blessing for all of us.”
Heath chose the downtown location because there are many people in the city’s epicenter. The route was drawn along the places where some of the shootings took place.
Public officials held a meeting last week after the third consecutive weekend of shootings in the city center in which at least one person was injured. Mayor Brian Treece and Police Chief Geoff Jones called on the community to end the violence.
Roger Pilkenton remembers seeing the warning tape on Fifth Street after the last shooting on November 14. A member of the Calvary Episcopal Church, Pilkenton helped organize the event alongside Heath.
He hopes the event will help create a change of mind in the community.
âOur expectation is that affecting the way we think will affect how we act; and how we act will affect what we’re going to do,â Pilkenton said.
Ryan Burke grew up in Colombia and attended the University of Missouri before going overseas to become a pastor in Baghdad.
âWhat is sad is that I started to see more violence in my hometown than in Baghdad,â he said. Burke was happy to see community members come together to show that there are more solutions than violence.
Heath believes the event was a success and hopes to host more walks like this. âIt was just proof that there is so much good in our community,â she said.
About 20 people marched in Columbia on Sunday. Fifty other people who were out of town for the next vacation told Heath they would pray for Columbia from where they were.
âThe interesting ripple effect is that people shared the invitation to the interfaith walk of meditation and prayer,â said Heath. “So we have people in England, in St. Louis and in Joplin, Missouri praying for our downtown area.”
âWe had so many people praying for us before the event. We had such a beautiful weather, and there were so many nudges and touches of faith along the way,â said Heath. “We just know it’s going to make a huge difference to our city.”