Area churches will host "Breathing Together: A Service of Lament and Hope" at 5 p.m. Sunday at Spiva Park, located at Fourth and Main streets in Joplin. The event is open to the public.
The objective is to give the community a time to grieve recent events — namely, the death of George Floyd via a Minneapolis police officer and the protests against police brutality that followed — and to look toward the future, organizer Travis Hurley said.
"Regardless of the circumstances surrounding a tragedy, when someone dies, that is sad," he said. "For our African American community, they experience it at such a frequency given the history of oppression (that) I think lamentation is a natural part of their process. I don't think, in my experience, white people lament very well, so we wanted to make sure that we provide that opportunity."
Hurley said the name of the event, "Breathing Together," is a reference to Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes and pleaded with the cop that he couldn't breathe. It also encapsulates a Christian view of grief and hope, asking people to "exhale" their sorrow and "inhale" the spirit of God, he said.
Guest speakers are scheduled to include Matthew McBirth, director of diversity at Ozark Christian College; Howie Nunnelly, pastor at Impact Life Church; Samuel Nero, pastor at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church; Kathryn Wilson, associate pastor at South Joplin Christian Church; and Jaron Scott, associate pastor of Christ's Church of Joplin. A time of prayer also is scheduled, Hurley said.
The event will be followed by a meal from the Clark's Cuisine food truck, and tables and chairs will be set up along Main Street from Fourth to Seventh streets to allow for social distancing, Hurley said.
The goal is for people to "find someone here you don't know, eat together and begin to develop relationships because there's no quick fix to the issues we're facing," he said.