About 100 people gathered at the amphitheater in Nisbet Park Wednesday night for a community prayer for unity

By Chuck Gibson

 LOVELAND, OH (June 18, 2020) — As dusk fell upon the crowd gathered around the amphitheater in Nisbet Park at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 17, they raised their arms and voices in prayer for unity in Loveland and all communities.  

About 100 people raised their arms and voices in prayer together in Loveland Wednesday, June 17 (Chuck Gibson) 

The community prayer event was organized by Branches Church pastor Shane Harden. Some of the nearly 100 people first gathered at Kiwanis Park off Wall Street before walking together across the bridge into Historic Downtown Loveland and entering Nisbet Park. They were joined there by more people who came directly to gather in the amphitheater for community prayer. A wooden cross was displayed on ground level flanked by two tables holding sealed communion vessels in front of the stage. Two musicians with guitars and amplifiers stood on stage behind where Harden would stand and speak to the crowd.

A view of the assembly at the amphitheater in Nisbet Park Wednesday, June 17 (Chuck Gibson)

“I think there is a lot of crossover of believers wanting to do stuff together,” said Harden. “It’s a weird thing that churches don’t do a lot of that. We’re trying to break the ice.”

Harden says Loveland has a unique situation in that the churches pastors and staffs all know one another and are very close. The congregations don’t get a lot of interaction together. He believes there is “huge potential” in events like the community prayer held Wednesday evening. 

Desmon Gault led the community in the first prayer (Chuck Gibson) 

The event was spawned from the seven nights of peaceful unity walks through Loveland led by Desmon Gault in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota less than a month ago. The community prayer event was described as the first of many “next steps” following Gault’s lead to call upon God and faith to unite people in the community.

Harden introduced Desmon Gault to the gathering first to lead the community prayer. When he took the microphone from Harden, Gault spoke to the people about how each must come together with God. People raised their arms and 

set their gaze skyward as he called upon God in prayer to guide him, the individuals and the community to unite in care and love for one another to bring our community together in faith.

“We have a continued awareness that there is a lot of sin in our world,” Harden said. “We are fully aware of that as believers. We serve a God who gives grace, and mercy, and forgiveness. We do live in a world with racism and we have to address that like any of the other sins in our lives.”

The family of Desmon Gault, his mother, Josie Maddox, Desmon Jr, Savanna, and wife Brittany – LCSD Board of Eduation president Dr. Kathryn Lorenz can be seen in upper back during prayer (Chuck Gibson)

Coming together to worship God with that emphasis Harden believes is the path to forgiveness and healing from the sin of racism. In a world looking for answers to racism, he offers repentance and forgiveness to transform lives through the power of the cross.

“We can’t do it, we can’t do that, He did,” said Harden referring to God and prayer transforming people’s lives. “It is about Him, that Jesus who gave His life so we can have a different kind of life.”

A different kind of life is what bringing the community together in prayer is all about for Harden. The goal is a different kind of life than one which reveals inequality, injustice, racial prejudices and hatred. He wants to see a world where Christians are not sitting on the sideline, but praying to God to change us. That is his simple answer to why they organized a community prayer event in Loveland.

“We can love people,” Harden said. “You know Desmon is my brother now, we’re a family now. How does that happen? We serve the same Father. If we can be transformed by the power of Christians, then the world will be a better place

Branches Church Pastor Shane Harden leads the community in prayer Wednesday, June 17, in Loveland (Chuck Gibson) 

After Gault’s words and opening prayer, Harden called upon the assembly to read aloud together the printed prayer they handed out. They called on God to make things “In Cincinnati as it is in Heaven”. Again arms and eyes were raised toward heaven as the community prayed together. Jerry Viox and his daughter Terry joined the community. Terry had a sign with a simple message: “In God We Trust.”

“I thought the service was very nice,” said Jerry. “It was interdenominational. It talked about fellowship, and love of God, peace and it was very good. It was pretty well attended, but there was room for more.”

His daughter Terry was equally happy with the community coming together in prayer.

The community came to the cross where they placed messages of concern and hope during communion. (Chuck Gibson) 

“I think it was a great thing,” she said. “Anything that brings God into the community is what the community needs at this point. People are chasing their tails, afraid, scared, they can’t find peace, and they’re unsettled. It’s because they don’t go to the Word, they don’t listen to the Lord, and they don’t find comfort from Him. The world needs that more than anything.”

 Harden is aware of the skepticism surrounding a planned community event in the current environment where hatred and fear are clearly evident. Trying to answer the question of how to help people see one another, not in the color of their skin, not by their ethnic roots, and not even by the job they do, but rather as a fellow human being is a huge difficult challenge. He has made sure police officers who are members in his church know they are loved.

Desmon Gault with his family:in front daughter Savanna, son Desmon Jr., in back his mother Josie Maddox , wife Brittany and Desmon (Chuck Gibson) 

“This isn’t an anti-police rally,” said Harden. “This is God transforming all of us. Invite them together and let them meet each other and know each other.”

 The crowd in attendance included community business leaders like Kevin Egan who is part of the ownership group for Paxton’s Grill and Ramsey’s Trailside. Loveland Schools Board of Education President Dr. Kathryn Lorenz attended the community prayer event. Wednesday night the community came together in prayer, in song, at the cross with post-it note messages of concern and hope, and in public communion. What is the message for a community like Loveland where people feel safe.

Desmon Gault and Shane Harden – brothers and family in Christ (Chuck Gibson) 

“I think we have a responsibility in a war against racism,” Harden said. “We may feel like we are in a very safe area of no racism, but we can search our own heart to ask am I really open to God bringing me together with other people? We’re made to be in relationship with one another through God. That’s the message.”

Harden closed the community prayer asking everyone to sing “Amazing Grace” together.  They did. It was amazing grace to witness the community coming together. They aren’t sure what is next, but Harden reminded everyone to keep watch for information on “next steps” in Loveland. Jerry Viox summed up the community prayer event in a few short words.

“This emphasized religion, not we need this, or you need that, or you’re right, or you’re wrong,” said Viox “This is just religion and that works.

Click here to visit Branches Church – Loveland online