ROCKINGHAM — With heads bowed and hands clasped together, a small group of concerned residents comes together to pray for their community.
Songs are sung and scriptures are read.
Small slips of paper with Bible verses are printed out and handed to all participants. Children get a piece of candy along with theirs.
Organizers say the crowd has been converging on Cauthen Drive every Wednesday evening since April, after resident Elise Wall asked her pastor to come to her neighborhood.
Wall said the road — which runs through Crown Pointe Apartments — has been the site of three shootings this year. She added that none have been fatal.
Taquan Taheem McDonald was arrested in February and charged in the shootings of Melissa Taylor and Teresa Best. The two women were shot multiple times with a .22-caliber rifle.
The most recent shooting happened July 5, when police say Kevin Robert Williams shot Jaquale Isaac.
“The church has been working with the young people,” Wall said. “Our ultimate goal is to draw them to Christ.”
“We want this community safe for our children,” she said. “We want our boys to know God has a plan for their life.”
Pastor David Brown and his wife Margo — of Christ Memorial Church on East Washington Street — said in addition to the prayer vigils, they are offering to help young people with education and job training.
“The only thing they know is shooting,” said Margo Brown. “The only thing they know is fighting. We want to show them there’s another way.”
The Browns, who are both retired educators, said they also want to bring in speakers to provide the youth with a positive influence.
“They clean up the area,” Brown said, referring to the buildings and streets, “but they’ve got to clean up their hearts and minds.”
“That’s what keeps the area clean,” she said.
Wall said despite the violence, there is a lot of love in her neighborhood.
“We want everyone to know that the community will come together,” she said, “that we love each other.”
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675.