The morning after an ambush in Dallas left five police officers dead, Madisonville residents gathered in front of the county courthouse to pray and encourage one another.
Pastors from varying denominations spoke to a crowd, which included babies, high school students, young professionals and grandparents, people of all races and a handful of law enforcement officers.
“Let’s focus on unity and love,” said the Rev. Wade Phillips of Madisonville Christian Fellowship. “This is not a race problem. This is an absence of God problem.”
Despite just having about an hour’s notice via social media, about 100 people gathered for the brief service, holding hands and occasionally offering a resounding, “Amen.”
Phillips directly addressed the law enforcement officers who “leave your homes and put that uniform on every day.”
“We love you,” he said. “If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are my brother or sister. I stand with you, but more importantly, I stand with God.”
The Rev. Ed Collins of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church also encouraged the group.
“Let us watch what we say,” he said in a prayer. “I want to pray that we give them strength to hold onto you, Lord. We want to be a county of harmony and togetherness.”
Dustin Gist of North Madison Church of Christ added that the community needs peace.
“I pray for the lives that have been lost and the families that are hurt and are grieving,” Gist said. “We pray, Lord, that we will place you first in our lives.”
Warren Hunt, minister of music and discipleship at First Baptist Madisonville, said problems cannot be fixed by a new leader.
“They can only be fixed through Jesus Christ,” he said. “Once people change, then communities change. True freedom comes from the blood of Jesus Christ.”
The group sang “God Bless America” and listened intently as Police Chief Herbert Gilbert read the Policeman’s Prayer.
“God bless this community,” Phillips said in closing. “Let’s go spread the light of Jesus Christ.”