ELIZABETH, NJ – Rev. Yvonne Smith-Larkin wiped tears from her eyes and said, “I am the aunt of two young men who were killed. This is the second time this has happened. My heart is broken again.”

She was speaking at a meeting hosted by Pastor Joseph Adair at the Macedonia Baptist Church on Fairmount Avenue, called in response to last month’s shooting spree that left three dead and one severely wounded. The meeting brought together city officials, community leaders and families of the victims. Three of the church’s members are directly related to victims.

Pastor Adair, whose wife was murdered in 1991, knew he had to do something. “I knew we had to bring people together. I prayed over it.”

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His answer is to hold an ecumenical Healing and Prayer Service, bringing together people of all faiths on July 31 at 6:30 p.m. “We want to make this as broad as we can. Murder touches every culture, every race,” Pastor Adair said. “The shame of it is that there is not a whole lot of resources that people know about to guide them through the process of mourning and back to a normal life.”

The goals of the service are threefold. “We want to minister to the families,” said Pastor Adair, who is also a human rights commissioner. “We want to let them know that we love and sympathize with them and to let them know that there a group here in Elizabeth that wants to support them.”

As part of that support, the church volunteers are making and selling ribbons with the proceeds paying for CARE packages for the families. The ribbons are red to signify the spilling of innocent blood, and they are clasped with a cross or a praying hands ornament, “which is what our response should be.” So far, 250 ribbons have been sold.

The prayer service is the only the first step in what Pastor Adair hopes is a movement. “I hope that it would bring people together to let them know that we have more in common than we know. It’s a way to respond to the senseless violence and pain of someone touched by murder.”