Worshipers converge in Rock Hill for rally to promote racial unity

David Roth felt called to action. And he wasn’t about to question it.

“God put it on my heart,” he said, smiling. “When God moves, he moves, and you feel it.”

Roth, the outreach director for the York Baptist Association, said he felt dismayed by recent racial tension broadcast across the country on television and other media. During his 18 years of working with local churches in Rock Hill and around the county, Roth says he has always been accepted by worshipers of all races.

Roth said he wanted to show that Rock Hill citizens of every color could come together in faith: He saw that wish come true Saturday morning when worshipers from across the city came together at the Rock Hill amphitheater for what Roth called a “Celebrate Solidarity” rally.

Roth said he contacted nearly 100 churches, including 80 within the YBA, to come out in support of the event, which featured several speakers and singers throughout the early morning.

“We need to show the world that not everyone hates one another like they do on TV,” said Roth. “The church is a body of love, we love one another.”

Italya Potts, who attends the Sanctuary of Life Outreach Center, sang two of her own original songs at the rally. She said she’s proud to live in Rock Hill, citing friendly police officers and a strong sense of racial harmony.

Potts wanted to share news of the rally with her church friends, as she said they are important to bringing “grace in the community.”

“As it says on the sign, we have no racism in Rock Hill,” said Potts. “We can help by letting everyone know whether you’re black, white, Hispanic, Asian, we can get together. We all bleed the same red blood.”

Bret Shuman, a member of Elevation Church, spent much of the early morning preparing a feast full of hot dogs, chips and water for hungry attendees.

He said today’s media tends to “sensationalize” negative news, rather than promote positive engagement. Making a show of unity in a public place, Shuman said, helps churchgoers feel differently.

“That’s what this is about,” he said.

Roth, who said he spent about four weeks organizing the day, spent much of the event sitting back and enjoying the music of several praise singers. He said the York Baptist Association is starting to get more and more traditionally African-American churches into its fold, which he says will help to bring people together for a common mission.

“I just want for folks to come out and hug one another and know each other and be one in the world,” he said.

David Thackham: 803-329-4066, @dthackham