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Staff photo by Wyatt Massey / Tony Walliser (left), senior pastor of Silverdale Baptist Church, and the Rev. Dr. R. Gregory Odom, pastor of New Monumental Baptist Church, lead a prayer during a gathering for racial unity at Camp Jordan on Oct. 2, 2020.

A few hundred people gathered Friday night on the lawn of Camp Jordan for an evening of prayer and song in an effort to bridge racial divides in the church.

Some of those in attendance sat in lawn chairs in front of the concrete stage while others remained in their cars as the program was broadcast on the radio.

Shannon Chapman, lead pastor of City Church Chattanooga, started the event with prayer, telling those in the crowd to join their hearts with God.

"Tonight is a night where we all join together," he said.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga pastors grapple with history of church racism)

Worship leaders from across the city took part in the musical performances. The event Friday night, organized by Chattanooga House of Prayer and The Church ACTS, is part of a series of events to unite the church. A similar gathering was held in June at Mt. Canaan Baptist Church.

Tony Walliser, senior pastor of Silverdale Baptist Church, said the church needs to be an example of unity in the community. The famous quote by Martin Luther King Jr. that says Sunday morning is the most segregated time in America should not continue to ring true, Walliser said.

"We're made in the image of Christ. So we have no way of looking differently at [others]," Walliser said.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga faith leaders challenge Christian church with anti-racism pledge)

The Rev. Dr. R. Gregory Odom, pastor of New Monumental Baptist Church, said events like the one at Camp Jordan show the church can still be relevant to the ongoing conversations today.

"We can come together now, as a unified church, to be as God intended," Odom said.

Walliser and Odom encouraged people in attendance to sign up to help the various ministries stationed in booths throughout the park. The pastors said the ministries could help build important bonds across divides in the community.

Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.

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Staff photo by Wyatt Massey / Music worship leaders perform during a gathering for racial unity at Camp Jordan on Oct. 2, 2020.
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