Churchgoers tour city praying against violence

Worshipers aimed to "pierce the darkness" of a bloody week

  • Soan Evans prays on Gertrude Court in the place known as "Chocolate City," as the "Bless Baltimore Prayer Motorcade," -- in response to a rash of overwhelming bloodshed and violence -- hits another portion of the city Friday.
Soan Evans prays on Gertrude Court in the place known as "Chocolate… (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore…)
June 29, 2013|By Ian Duncan, The Baltimore Sun

In the shadow of the McCulloh Homes, Shirley Bush watched as a crowd of worshipers poured out of cars and buses and gathered in front of Sharp St. Memorial United Methodist Church to pray in defiance of the week's violence, and remembered her own son who was killed by gunfire in April.

Her son Ralph Timmons Jr. and her 11-year-old grandson were shot when two men burst into his home in a robbery attempt, according to police. The boy is doing well, Bush said, but she struggles to find meaning in all of the recent deaths.

"They're just killing people every day," she said.

The churchgoers, who numbered in the hundreds, drove to each of the city's nine police districts Saturday, gathering on street corners and in parking lots and prayed that God might end the streak of shootings that has left 16 dead since June 20.

"Together we're going to push back the darkness," Bishop Marcus A. Johnson Sr. of New Harvest Ministries told a crowd gathered at police headquarters Saturday morning before the drive began.

Organizers with the Multicultural Prayer Movement dubbed the nondenominational event the Bless Baltimore Prayer Motorcade.

Johnson said in an interview that the parade was a chance for him to take to the street themes he expects to address in his service Sunday. The members of his church are keenly following the ebb and flow of violence in Baltimore, he said.

"They're not afraid, they're concerned," Johnson said. "They want to know what the next actions are."

The parade of vehicles, which included a hearse to symbolize the lives lost and ward off further deaths, made its way through city streets, stopping first in a parking lot in the 600 block of Cherry Hill Road.

A few weeks ago, police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts had been there too. At a strip mall on the opposite side of the road, he had updated reporters on an investigation into the nearby murder of a 1-year-old baby.

The worshipers then continued to the 500 block of Dolphin Street, where Bush watched. While her son was a victim of gun violence, he was indicted after his death in a federal case alleging that he was part of a Black Guerrilla Family gang operation to smuggle drugs and other contraband into the Baltimore jail.

Batts this week blamed some of the recent violence on ongoing problems at the jail and tensions between the Black Guerrilla Family and its rivals.

Angela Harry, 52, who runs a daycare a few blocks from the Memorial Church, said she was glad to see the worshipers gathering in her neighborhood, but said she wanted to see practical measures to curb violent crime.

"The main thing is getting the guns off the streets," she said.

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