Civic-Minded Churches Fight AIDS With Prayer in Roanoke
March 11, 2011
About a month ago, the congregation of Roanoke's Loudon Avenue Christian Church invited 130 faith leaders to join them in marking the National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS. Just five replied, but that did not stop the members' commemoration. Though the weeklong observance ends on Saturday, March 12, related events occur throughout the month.
"Last year, we tried to pull this off and we gave up," said the Rev. William Lee. "This year, we said we would do this in the Lord's name. We have been revived."
Of the 1,900 people with HIV in the state's southwestern health region, 48 percent are black, according to Dr. Stephanie Harper, director of the state's Roanoke and Alleghany health districts. In Virginia, statistics shows that one in 16 black men and one in 30 black women will contract HIV, she said.
"We cannot be successful in addressing this epidemic without every faith community involved," said Pernessa Seele, who led a workshop in the High Street Baptist Church sanctuary. The attendees numbered a few dozen, including 14 pastoral leaders from Lynchburg, Roanoke, and Salem. Seele first organized the prayer week in 1989.
Drawing a crowd to HIV-related church events can be a challenge, since many pastors avoid speaking about homosexuality, concurrent sexual partnerships, and injection drug use, said the Rev. Ed Sanders, a pastor from Nashville, Tenn., and a former member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.
"We are not dealing with human sexuality education," Sanders said. "For us to work against AIDS, we must move beyond the things that fragment us."
"We need to pray for our children," Seele said. "We need to pray for our mothers and fathers who sit in our pews every Saturday and Sunday, because they are afraid to tell their pastor that their son, their daughter died of AIDS."
03.04.2011; Jorge Valencia
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