Richmond pastors unite forces to promote non-violence

March 2, 2010 6:53:41 PM PST
Operation Richmond is a massive outreach effort by that city's faith community. It is in response to several outrageous crimes, including the murder of a pregnant woman and two attempted murders in the middle of a church service.

Operation Richmond is going better than expected, but they realize that one week of outreach will not solve the deep problems facing the community.

There is a group of men who hope to pull Richmond out of its current cycle of violence. Tuesday morning, pastors from eight different churches appeared at the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors meeting to accept a resolution in support of their effort called Operation Richmond.

"It has actually exceeded our expectations," said Morris LeGrande, Operation Richmond coordinator. "We thought it would take a week to pass out 10,000 pieces of literature in the packet, along with the Bibles, and it took 48 hours."

The campaign began last weekend when 1,000 men went door to door, trying to meet face to face with those who live in Richmond's most troubled neighborhoods.

"We knocked on the doors. We said prayers in their homes and left them with a Bible," said Pastor Henry Washington from the Garden of Peace Church.

When asked if he felt like he was reaching the people he needed to reach, Washington replied, "The individuals that we're really going after, maybe not, but we're touching their mothers, their fathers, their sisters, their grandmothers, the community that doesn't feel safe."

The effort comes after a brazen shooting on February 14 at the New Gesthemane Church. Two teenage brothers were hurt, neither of them seriously. Police have a 16-year-old in custody and are looking for more suspects.

"The church is going to the houses and reach the people and bring them to the church," said New Gethsemane Pastor Archie LeVias.

This Saturday, Operation Richmond will move back into the neighborhoods. Participants will form prayer circles at more than 200 intersections and finally, a larger one around New Gethsemane. The pastors say the effort to reach Richmond's youth will not end there.

"We're not stopping now. We will continue until we do reach these young men and young women," said Washington.

In regards to the church shooting, police arrested two teens, but on Wednesday they will release the name and photo of a suspect in connection with the crime.