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'Mourning into dancing!' - Religious leaders preach hope and unity

Published:Thursday | January 7, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Ian Allen/Photographer
Worshippers who turned out at the National Arena yesterday to pray for unity in the country.

Laura Redpath, Senior Gleaner Writer

WHILE PERSONS came and went, some happy with their sacred olive oil, religious leaders raised their voices with messages of hope, peace and prayer for Jamaica and its government.

The Reverend Evon Blair of the New Testament Church of God had the congregation supporting her, hands waving in the air, as she preached that God would be turning Jamaica's "mourning into dancing".

"Is God run tings!" she screamed into the microphone. "Bring down the walls. I said bring down the walls!"

The walls almost came down with the congregation's resounding cheers and shouts of, "Hallelujah."

The National Arena, packed with more than 10,000 attendees, was the site where persons gathered to listen to a number of reverends, pastors and bishops pray for unity among political parties and the Jamaican people.

New Jamaica

"Something good is about to happen, this very day. After today, Jamaica will not be the same because something is happening. We are here to turn things around," said Bishop Colville Webb of the Jamaica Pentecostal Union (Apostolic).

"God will show up in times of crisis," he assured.

Meanwhile, an usher walked by, slapping the knee of Leonard Williams, a member of The Power of Faith Ministries church.

"Wake up," she said.

"Me deh meditate," he said, slowly lifting his head and opening his eyes.

Sister Dionne Garrell of the Power of Faith Ministries was one of the many ushers handing out vials of olive oil.

"It is good for you," she said. "You can rub it on yourself. If a family member is sick, give it to them to drink."

Two uniformed police officers stepped into the auditorium, their lips moving to the words of a hymn. They, too, joined in with the congregation, saying, "I am blessed."

The music picked up and once Evangelist Jabez said "We're going to chase those devils out of Jamaica," the dancing started. Elderly gentlemen broke into ska moves and fancy footwork, holding their arms in the air.

Books of inspiration such as Victory Over the Darkness and others, including Prepare for War, were being sold in the foyer. People of all age gathered outside and talked about what they thought this country needs: prayer.

Singing and praying

While persons browsed the religious music and books, laughter was heard over the throbbing base of the Christian song, Hear My Cry.

Hear my cry O Lord, attend unto my prayer

Tears rolled down the faces of men and women. They raised their voices, some gripping their chests as they sang.

From the ends of the Earth will I cry out to thee

"A lot of people are getting safe," Leonard Williams said. "There are a lot of gunmen and murderers, but the people in our church are getting safe.

And when my heart is overwhelmed, Lord

Hands stretched as persons reached out to touch each other.

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, that is higher than I.

Prayers were said over and over again, one of which was the National Anthem. Persons, including Bishop Rowan J. Edwards, Jamaica Association of Full Gospel Churches, told tales of scenes of violence. Edwards described a crime scene he came across, where he saw a bullet shell and machete. However, he went straight into praising, encouraging the congregation to sing to the Lord.