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Prayer vigil Thursday night at Lincoln Civic Center

A Brookhaven pastor hopes the community will find comfort at a countywide prayer vigil to be held today beginning at 6 p.m. at the Lincoln Civic Center.

“People are looking for answers,” said the Rev. Philip Sterling of Grace Community Church. “So many people are just lost, searching for answers, searching for hope. The families are broken.”

He and Quinn Jordan, the center’s executive director, decided the community needed a place to gather together and pray for each other and the families affected by the tragic deaths.

Sterling said the event will last about an hour and will include several speakers offering encouraging words “to give the community some hope, to give them some answers.”

Speaker of the House Philip Gunn is participating, Jordan said. Several other state leaders will be attending to show their support for the families but will not speak.

Jordan said when he heard about the deaths, he was in shock.

“I was struck with disbelief and a desire of what could I do,” he said. “The first thing that came to my mind is pray. Pray for the families and pray for the victims. We need to pray for the community.”

He is encouraging attendance at the event. He has seating for 500 available but expects more than that.

“Let’s show strong support for these families,” he said. “We’re here for them and praying for them. Both for them and with them.”

Sterling said this event is a joint effort organized by several people, city and county officials and the Lincoln County Ministerial Alliance.

“There’s no set religion, there’s no certain church. It’s just a coming together of everyone. It crosses the boundaries,” he said. “We want to bring this community together.”

He said the families of the victims — William Durr, Barbara Mitchell, Brenda May, Toccara May, Austin Edwards, Jordan Blackwell, Sheila Burage and Ferral Burage — have been invited to attend.

“This has affected more than Bogue Chitto, more than the communities, more than one race, more than one culture,” he said. “There’s never, in recent memory, been a mass murder or tragedy to this magnitude anywhere in Mississippi. It’s really hit home.”