PRAYER VIGILS

For the Victims of Homicide and their families

Since beginning the Vigil Ministry in 1997, the Religious Coalition has conducted over 200 vigils. Our community suffers an average of thirty murders per year. The family and friends of these victims frequently report a sense of shame about their beloved’s violent death, regardless of the facts of the incident. Survivors are surprised and disheartened by the silence from the community-at-large to the sudden, tragic death of a loved one.  Families of victims may be wary of the criminal justice system and find it difficult to understand their place in it.

We are grateful for the opportunity to mourn together in community, to acknowledge the dignity and worth of the victim, recognize the traumatic loss for the victim’s loved ones, and offer their prayers, love, and community resources for healing and wholeness. One mother of a slain child said that the vigil was “like a period at the end of a sentence.” Another mother remarked that “a dark weight was lifted during her son’s vigil. There was a special love.”  It brought relief to know that others cared about them and did not judge them or her son. “George’s vigil was like a prayer that goes down in your soul,” she said

We believe that every homicide in Durham poses the question, what will be the response of the faith community? We ask you to prayerfully and scripturally discern what should be the response of your congregation to the homicides that occur in our city. Please consider:

• Putting an announcement in the bulletin encouraging members of your congregation to get on the vigil notification email list. They need only send an email to nonviolentdurham@gmail.com with the subject line: “add me to vigil list”. You will then receive notification of each vigil in Durham. Being on the list comes with absolutely no obligation.

• Organizing a team of congregational members who have a passion for social justice in this city and can oversee and encourage your church’s involvement in the vigils, or any other aspects of the ministry.

• Praying collectively and individually for the victims, families, and perpetrators of homicide in Durham.

Please contact Ruthy Jones at 919-698-9092 or nonviolentdurham@gmail.com to receive vigil notices. Peace to you.

Below is reflection about the luncheons and vigils from Ms. Brenda James. Her son, Randolph, was shot to death in 2008:

Greetings from Brenda James.

Giving all the honor and glory to our LORD Jesus Christ who is my Savior, holder of my Soul and guide of my pathways.

I also want to take this unique opportunity to thank The Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham for all the support through the organization and personal they still extend to me.

The Religious Coalition is not just a name but it’s a force. They entered my life in August 2007, when my son Randolph James was murdered for falling for a young woman in the wrong territory as they call it. He was my youngest child at twenty-five years old at the time.

I had never heard of The Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham and surely didn’t want to meet them at a time like that. A friend, Gwyn Silvers talked me into going to a meeting and my life changed from that point on.

When I walked in I could feel the love and acceptance in that room. The people came to you and extended their welcome, friendship, ear to listen and their condolences.

I had never heard of a vigil so I didn’t know what to expect. The vigil was so spiritual and calming including all that wanted to take part was welcome. It gave me an outlet to say to my darling Randolph things I had not chance to say. In doing so, I felt for the first time that I turned him loose and let him take his place with Jesus. Even though it was many tears my heart felt lighter than before the murder. Oh, what a gift of Love that can never be repaid.

When I think of the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham I think of Love, Acceptance, being there in a time of need, tireless work, help for the helpless, non-judgment, passionate in their quest to help those who need it. I feel God gave me a new family that was right for me and I thank Him. Bless You All. Thank you.

A Letter from Glenda Fowler in honor of her son Kareem Fowler

Hi. My name is Glenda Fowler, the mother of Kareem Fowler who was murdered April16, 2010 folowing his 33rd birthday. Unless this has happened to you then you can’t imagine the impact this has had on my life, Kareem’s family and his two children.

He was a wonderful son, father, grandson, nephew, cousin, and friend. Kareem was also a scholar at Strayer University. Kareem was not here to receive his degree so they presented it to me posthumously and named a place in their library in his honor. I donated his books for students in need. What an honor!

During my time of grieving, and it still continues even today, I met a wonderful woman, Marcia Owen, director of the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham. She and the organization have been a blessing to me – crying with me and being with me during the court meetings and trial. Her love and all those in the coalition’s love is just outstanding.
Just recently she joined me to honor my son’s birthday on 4/2/13 with a very personal gesture that I would have done alone. But as busy as she is she insisted that she go with me so I wouldn’t be alone. I put red silk flowers in the ground where my son was shot to death 5 times.

Marcia has become a significant person in my life. Just her phone calls and “I love you, Honey,” concern for my grandchildren and family is outstanding. This organization not only nurtures me but hundreds of others in the Durham Community as witnessed at the first Annual Vigil I attended in February. The people were loving and compassionate toward those of us who have lost loved ones to violence. I am so happy that this organization has taken me and my family under their wings and continue to encourage us and most of all Love and show Love.

What a great organization! I’d love to write more but this is just a short view of their good deeds.

Sincerely,
Glenda T. Fowler
April 9, 2013

Reflections on Psalm 139 for Homicide Victim George Perry

The sermon and prayer below was spoken at the Prayer Vigil for George Rashan Perry by Reverend Carla Gregg, who was a Duke Divinity student and intern with the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham, on Saturday, February 5, 2005, at Longmeadow Park on the corner of N. Hyde Park and Liberty Street, Durham.

George Rashan Perry’s life was remembered by family and friends in a funeral service last week. But today we come from all over Durham to mourn together as a city. I can only imagine that George and I led different lives here in North Carolina. I never knew him and I have no reason to be here today except that we are citizens of the same city and ultimately I think, brother and sister in the same kingdom. You see, the Psalmist tells us that George and I both–all of us really–have been wonderfully and fearfully made by a God we cannot escape. By a God for whom night is as bright as the day. And though we might like to hide under the cover of darkness, though we might like to live in the night, our God desires for us to live in the light.

Whatever we might say about the person who took George’s life, we can say with certainty that he is living in the night, he is in the dark. In those early morning hours, he did not remember that God patiently knit George together in his mother’s womb. In those early morning hours, he did not know that God had lovingly touched even his face. But Psalm 139 pulls us out of a world that pushes God’s presence to the side. We are reminded that God’s hand has touched our face and every other person’s. We are reminded that if we make our bed in Sheol, if we go to the deepest, darkest place, God is there. We are reminded that God desires to be with us, in our midst, not watching us be against one another. God does not desire the lives of black men or white women or Arab children or anyone else’s life for that matter, to be taken violently. These deaths are human work done under the cover of night. This violence does not represent the care with which we are created or the steadfastness with which we are loved. But today we remember that that our God turns the darkness of violence into the light of peace. And we are invited to step into that light by remembering that George, and you and I and all people are wonderfully and fearfully made by a God whose love has no end.

Prayer

Almighty God, fountain of all mercy and giver of all comfort,
deal graciously, we pray with our humble city.

We offer prayers today especially for George Perry’s family and friends, those who knew and loved him best. Empty, and lost, and sad, we pray that they turn to one another and turn to you.

We also pray earnestly today for the person who took George’s life. We pray that he might recognize that he too has been named child of God. We pray that he seeks reconciliation with George’s family and this community and that we are able to receive him in a spirit of mercy.

We recognize that George’s life extended beyond the scope of people he knew, that his absence in this world affects our entire city. We are less whole now that he is gone. We ask that you fill our brokenness not with hate and apathy but with spirit and with peace. Help us bring your reign of peace through our works of justice and righteousness.

We pray that this park is never again a scene of violence. Hasn’t enough blood been spilled in this city, O lord? We have proven that we can hurt one another, we know that we can snuff out a life…but do we know the care with which you created us? Do we know the delicate wonders of our own bodies? Do we know the one who makes darkness into light?

Remind us O God that we have been claimed by you, a God we cannot escape, who when we come to the end is still there.

Open our hearts to the movement of your spirit
Open our ears to the cries of our brothers and sisters
Open us to act with justice and compassion in Durham and around the world.

Amen.

The Mourner’s Bill of Rights by Allan Wolfelt, PhD.

“Though you should reach out to others as you do the work of mourning, you should not feel obligated to accept the unhelpful responses you may receive from some people. You are the one who is grieving, and as such, you have certain “rights” no one should try to take away from you.

The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and to decide how others can and cannot help. This is not to discourage you from reaching out to others for help, but rather to assist you in distinguishing useful responses from hurtful ones.”

1. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EXPERIENCE YOUR OWN UNIQUE GRIEF.

No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don’t allow them to tell what you should or should not be feeling.

2. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO TALK ABOUT YOUR GRIEF.

Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want. As often as you want about your grief, if at times you don’t feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.

3. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO FEEL A MULTITUDE OF EMOTIONS.

Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for example, is wrong. Don’t take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings with out condition.

4. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE TOLERANT OF YOUR PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL LIMITS.

Your feeling of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what you body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. Don’t allow others to push you into doing things you don’t feel ready to do.

5. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EXPERIENCE “GRIEFBURSTS”

Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.

6. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO MAKE USE OF RITUAL.

The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide you with the support of caring people, more importantly; the funeral is a way for you to mourn. If others tell you the funeral or other healing rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don’t listen.

7. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EMBRACE YOUR SPIRITUALITY.

If faith is a part of you life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support you religious beliefs, if you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won’t be critical of you feelings of hurt and abandonment.

8. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO SEARCH FOR MEANING.

You may find yourself asking, “Why did he or she die? Why this way? Why now?” Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. And watch out for the clichéd responses some people may give you. Comments like, “It was God’s will” or “Think of what you have to thankful for” are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.

9. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO TREASURE YOUR MEMORIES.

Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will always remember. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them.

10. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO MOVE TOWARD YOUR GRIEF AND HEAL.

Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.