Unite Williamson hosted an interfaith prayer, “Remembering Victims of Violence,” Wednesday evening at the Historic Sanctuary at Franklin First United Methodist Church in downtown Franklin.

The service featured Islamic, Jewish and Christian prayer, songs performed by St. Paul’s Consort and a reflection on recent violence by Pastor Luis Sura of Franklin Community Church.

Franklin Mayor Ken Moore and The Reverend Kenneth H. Hill founded Unite Williamson in the aftermath of the tragic shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in 2015.

Beginning in 2018, Unite Williamson began hosting annual prayer breakfasts both online and in person. Unite Williamson seeks “to build bridges across societal boundaries,” so the service included representatives from multiple faiths as well as prayers offered in multiple languages.

Wednesday's service comes on the heels of a string of mass shootings that has sparked bipartisan action in the Senate, most prominently a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, among others. 

Pastor Sura’s sermon came mid-service, following Lynne McAllister’s recitation of Matthew 22:34-40. Sura delivered his speech in both English and Spanish, aligning with Unite Williamson’s inclusivity initiatives.

In his speech, Sura asked, “If we trust in God, why do we have more weapons than people in our country? And why are eighteen-year-olds using AR-15 rifles to shoot hundreds of bullets a minute. We have taken God out of our schools, and we are bringing weapons in to protect us. It scares me that we keep having these shootings, and it scares me because it tells me that our nation is not fully connected to the God we proclaim.”

Sura concluded his reflection, saying, “I pray for our leaders that they can unload themselves before God and that they do something about this shooting…So this afternoon I want to pray for the families affected by the shooting. Not only in Texas, but New York, Chattanooga, Oklahoma, you name it, and [I pray] for our nation that they might humbly sit before God so that He will open His eyes and listen attentively to our prayers.”

Despite Sura’s prayers for changes for the nation and its leadership, when asked, Sura clarified, “I try not to get involved in politics. I try to more focus on serving the community the way God wants us to serve.”

Attendees of multiple religions greeted each other following the service as they filed out of the sanctuary to St. Paul’s Consort’s performance of "Let There Be Peace on Earth."

Unite Williamson’s next community event will take place on Oct. 16.

Moore will speak with Amy Alexander, co-founder of the Refuge Center, and Chancellor Randy Lowry of Lipscomb to explore strategies for connecting with community, loving your neighbor and, in alignment with Unite Williamson’s primary objective, helping attendees to find hope.