Violence has erupted throughout the country in response to the death of George Floyd, but two ministry leaders in Houston—one white and one black—are showing people a different way. The two men led a prayer vigil Sunday, and the event featured a powerful moment when the white participants knelt in front of the black participants, asking for their forgiveness.
“I believe you came here because you agree that we owe the black community an apology,” said Bobby “Tre9” Herring, who organized the event with Pastor Johnny Gentry. “Maybe it’s for neglect. Maybe it’s for the fact that we just didn’t get involved in helping the black community. Maybe it’s something we said. Maybe it’s our stereotypes. Maybe it’s just being insensitive altogether. I don’t know what yours is…For me as a white man, I’m going to own that. We can bring true healing if we start owning it.”
Herring is a Christian rap artist and the founder of the non-profit Eyes on Me, which serves at-risk youth and their families in the Houston area. He and Gentry, the pastor of Free Indeed Church International told Fox 26 Houston that they are calling their meetings (which are essentially prayer walks) “praytests,” in order to differentiate them from the violence occurring elsewhere in the nation. Herring posted on his social accounts Saturday, showing people walking through Houston and praying at various places.
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#Praytests happening all over the city. Started in Greenspoint today. I’ll be a poor excuse of a man before I sit back and watch the enemy write the narrative about Christians and how we respond. Some say we don’t do nothing as the church, or even as white people specifically to combat racism, hate and violence against the oppressed. Not in Houston, TX we do not sit back and watch. We aren’t reactive we are proactive. We’ve been screaming out for laborers for 11 years and there is no reason why anyone should become social media hate mongers when you choose to do nothing to bring the solution. Where will everyone be when the media stops covering the protests? We always tend to go back to our comfort zones. Well now that God has touched your heart and fired you up saints let’s go! We can make a move on the enemy right now. This prayer walk is just the beginning, we got lots more to do, DM me and plug in. #GLOBEMovement #houstonriots #houstonriot #prayforchange #prayerwalking #multiethnicchurch #unity #onechurch #missionaryminded #blacklivesmatter #alllivesmatter #policelivesmatter #proactivevents #communitylove #greenspoint #Christians #tre9warcry #eyesonmeinc #hiphophopemissions #dtsbrotherhood #ldtssisterhood #disciplethestreets #justiceforgeorgefloyd #georgefloyd #georgefloydprotest #georgefloydpraytests
Gentry: Prayer Vigil Was ‘prophetic and historic’
On Sunday afternoon, a diverse group of hundreds of people met in the pouring rain for a prayer vigil at Cuney Homes in Houston’s Third Ward. George Floyd grew up playing basketball there, and the crowd gathered at a basketball court with Floyd’s name written in the center of it.
Herring and Gentry had written out prayers on index cards and asked a few people to pray in front of everyone there. When the prayer circle ended, Herring said he “felt the burden” to ask people to separate by race and face each other on either side of the court. After they did so, he told those standing behind him that he had no problem if anyone disagreed with what they were about to do and preferred to leave, but he wanted to kneel in repentance before those gathered from the black community and ask their forgiveness. Herring emphasized that “other stats” that could be brought up were irrelevant and that it didn’t even matter how much he personally already serves in the black community. The point, he said, is that right now the black community is hurting. “That hurts me,” said Herring, “because I’m part of the body, and when one part hurts, we all hurt.”
So the white attendees knelt behind Herring, who led them in a prayer of confession to those standing before them on the other side of the court. Kneeling opposite Gentry, Herring asked God’s forgiveness for “years and years of racism, of systematic racism, of bigotry, of hate.” He prayed that God would raise up people who would “get involved” and become friends, allies, and neighbors to those in the black community. “We honor them,” said Herring. “God, we love them. You love them.”
As Herring was finishing his prayer, the black participants also knelt down. Several of them were crying. Gentry asked the people now kneeling behind him, “If ya’ll receive it, when I count to three, can you say, ‘We receive it’?” He then counted to three, and the crowd behind him proclaimed, “We receive it!”
The two groups continued kneeling across from each other with bowed heads. Herring and Gentry clasped hands, and the pastor offered a prayer in response to Herring’s confession. “You are the God of reconciliation,” said Gentry, as those behind him affirmed his words. “Not only do we receive their repentance but, God, we repent as the black community for holding unforgiveness, for acting out of anger, for Father God, failing our own community at times.”
Gentry later said, “Today was prophetic and historic. The white community repented to the black community for generations of systematic racism and injustice. The black community received and reciprocated repentance.”
On Facebook, Herring described his feelings leading up to the moment he decided to lead people in that prayer at the prayer vigil. “I kept wrestling with what to say to whoever showed up, regardless of how many, or their status,” he said. “It only left my stomach in knots, my mind cluttered & my heart heavy all day long. My thoughts were all over the place & I couldn’t bring myself to write a speech or make special plans so I said to God, ‘Will you please use my mouth to speak your words during our time together?’” He added, “All day I kept thinking about how George Floyd’s legacy should be honorable and spark a unified movement, rather than the violence and division we are seeing everywhere.”
Gentry echoed that sentiment when he explained the mindset of the “praytest” movement to Fox 26 News. “Let’s not tear up our cities,” he said. “Let’s not dishonor authority. Let’s not dishonor others. Let’s do what we have to do but keep it respectable and honorable so others can align with us.”
Gentry and Herring are planning more “praytests” this week, including another prayer vigil this evening. Reflecting on Sunday afternoon, Gentry said, “Powerful. I’m speechless and in awe of God.”