To a chance passers-by, the signs popping up from the crowd at the foot of the Washington County Courthouse in downtown Jonesborough Sunday could have been a part of any number of protests highlighting a division among people.
But the people flooding the steps of the courthouse came for one reason — unity.
From Catholics to Protestants to Muslims and every religion in between, people from different faiths gathered for Sunday afternoon’s prayer vigil by the United Religions Initiative to offer support and prayer to Muslims and refugees in light of current events and terrorism across the world. Northeast Tennessee’s chapter of the United Religions Initiative hosted the vigil, opening the event to the public, regardless of religion.
“It’s important to us that we stand together,” the Rev. Jacqueline Luck, United Religions Initiative member and pastor of Holston Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, said. “Muslims, Jews, Christians, Catholics, Protestants of all sorts — it’s important that we come together and that we show that we can live here together in peace with each other and we don’t have to be hateful or fearful of each other.”
Leaders of different religions worshipping throughout the region took their turn speaking to a crowd wielding peace-promoting signs and singing songs of unity. Representatives from St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Holston Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, the Northeast Tennessee Muslim Community and First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton were among those in attendance, promoting unity and understanding across different faiths and support for local Muslims.
Story continues after video.
Linda Sorrell is a member of the Northeast Tennessee Co-o-peration Circle branch of the United Religions Initiative and Elizabethton’s First Presbyterian Church. In addition to leading the service in song with her accordion, Sorrell attended the gathering to show her support for unifying the community, regardless of individual differences.
“The more diverse a community we are, the healthier we are,” Sorrell said.
Even though the vigil fell around the holiday season when most religions are celebrating holy days, Luck said that it wasn’t the reason that organizers decided to have the vigil. She said it recent terror attacks that have sparked discrimination against Muslims and refugees that made her and the other organizers want to hold a ceremony to remind people in the community to stand together.
“I hope (attendants) would leave . . . seeing people of different faiths and religions standing shoulder to shoulder with the Muslim community, and that they would walk away and say, ’this is the way the world should be.’ Not ’this world in which we’re so terrified and scared and hateful.’ There’s just no room for that in any religion,” Luck said.