You could hear assistant pastor Michael Dowell at least a quarter mile away.
“Hallelujah!” he cried out from a busy intersection in east Covington early Saturday morning. “Glory to God! Praise the Lord!”
He and other members of Threshing Floor Ministries carried signs that said “God is in Control” and “Fight with Prayer, Prayer Changes Things.”
“With all that’s going on right now, we want to encourage people,” he said.
The show of encouragement wasn’t planned in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. It wasn’t planned because of the protests all over the country that have followed. The timing was perfect, though.
“God already had a narrative,” said Pastor Chris Dowell, explaining the assistant pastor felt called to do this even before this week’s events. “God already has a storyline and sometimes things fall in line with that.”
As Michael’s voice echoed through the Depot District, Chris explained how he felt the COVID-19 coronavirus was trying to cheat what God was already planning. The church wanted to promote God even more, he said.
“This fell inside the narrative God was already doing.”
And so they brought signs and a bullhorn and they stood in a place where everything changes, where East Street turns into Hope Street, where Hwy. 54 becomes East Liberty.
Metaphorically speaking, the country is in the same place.
There have been demonstrations, protests and riots since Floyd was killed by now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. There’s outrage over the unconscionable way in which Floyd died, which has been broadcast widely after a teenager captured video as Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck even after he lost consciousness. There’s outrage over systemic racism. There’s outrage over looting that’s taking place.
There are calls for unity, calls for changes to be made to the system many believe has discriminated against people of color since the United States of America was conceived.
Will things change? Will Hope and Liberty be the forward path?
Pastor Chris said nothing will change when you fight evil with evil.
That’s why church members were there: to encourage, to empower, to pray with people if they wanted to.
“It has to be a heart change, a spiritual change, we have to call on Yeshua. There’s a better way, a better hope and life beyond what we see with our physical eyes.”
At one point a pastor from another church walked up and handed bottles of water to Threshing Floor’s members. It’s that spirit of community that Chris, Michael and the rest of the church are trying to encourage.
“Right now, more than anything, churches have to unite,” he said. “There’s an ‘I’ in community, but there is ‘unity’ in there as well. We need to come together, especially in this new era we’re in.”
There are a lot of things that need to happen within the body, said Pastor Chris, and people need to be aware of those things.
“We need to work together with the government so that they will hear the community and the community will hear the Messiah.”
Saturday the community heard the assistant pastor.
Concerned drivers approached cautiously, reading the signs and listening as Michael spread the message of God’s love and commitment.
Drivers honked at the sign that read “If you love the Lord, honk your horn!!” The children smiled and waved back.
They have been in quarantine for months and getting them out of the house, channeling their energy in a positive way, is what the church wanted to do.
“This is the hope, what we see with the kids is hope.”
And hope is certainly what we all want and need right now. We need to be angry at the injustices of racial violence and we need to campaign for much-needed changes, but none of that will happen without love and without hope.
Maybe standing on Hope and reminding passersby that God is still in control will help.
Pastor Chris says the common theme is the heart.
“You have to love God, love your neighbor and love yourself. Anybody can do that, but you have to do it the way God intended.”