CENTER CITY >> Solomon Jones, of Mt. Airy, was given a challenge by an older woman who followed him on the radio airwaves. She said the city was in trouble and needed prayers. She wanted him to pray over the airwaves.
Jones, however, decided to take it a step further and created the midweek noon time “A Prayer for the City” event in the middle of the City Hall courtyard.
The second one took place on a cloudy, dark Wednesday, April 4, at 12:30 p.m., and a thunderstorm broke out as the last prayer was uttered.
Jones said that the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection needs much prayer. Now an ordained minister, he said he feels that with Philadelphia being the “poorest big city” in America, prayers are warranted. He is very vocal about restoring upward mobility, addressing the opiate epidemic and eradicating gun violence in local communities.
“The first time we came together to pray for the city was right before the Super Bowl,” Jones said. “I thought it was a good time to bring people together. I kind of used the Philadelphia Eagles as the dangling carrot. Once there, we prayed for the serious issues — the shootings, poverty, education, corruption and using us as a catalyst for further action.
“Then the second time we were to come together, there was a forecast of a thunderstorm. When I woke up, I was disappointed when I saw the heavy fog covering the sky. Right as we prayed, it started to rain, but the storm held back. It did not seriously start to rain until 1 p.m. when we were just about done. So we were able to pray for more to come out and vote, for reduction in homicide, for poverty in Philadelphia, before the [downpour].”
Among those who were praying alongside Jones was the Rev. Michael Couch, pastor of the New Beginning Church. Also present were Pastor K. Marshall Williams of the Nazarene Baptist Church, Pastor Dan Williams of New Life in Christ Fellowship and Minister Frank Crangle, who is the Philadelphia Police Department’s chaplain.
“We were in the center of the city, praying from the four corners with the winds coming in from the north, south, east and west,” Couch said. “This was a great location to that. We were the salt and the light as we brought shalom. It gave a good witness and testimony from those from various churches showing that the churches of this city want shalom.
“There is so much to pray for in these times. We made a great circle as we pray for those affected by the opioids, the government, the police, those affected by violence and just for the unity in this city of Philadelphia. We prayed for the kids that they get educated, that their parents get or stay employed. There is so much opposition, so that is why we prayed for our city,” Couch said.
Jones said he got positive responses from those who stopped by to pray with the congregated group.
Now, he said, he hopes that people will act. The first act is voting in the May 15 primary and then in the General Election next November.
“That is the first action that we must take now,” Jones said. “That is something we all can do — encourage everyone to register and vote, volunteer to help register voters and galvanize them to get to the polls to vote on the many important issues that are facing us.”
Many know Jones as the author of the bestselling novel “Pipe Dreams” that is based on his own life as a victim of the 1990s crack epidemic that affected African-American communities in Northwest Philadelphia. He has lived in Northwest Philadelphia all his life and still chooses to call the area home. He has worked at City Hall and in elected official offices, authored newspaper columns and still hosts his own radio program.
When Jones is not praying in the city’s center, one can find him writing or producing an Axis Philly production, writing a news column or magazine article or working on another novel. Over the years, he has written an eBook, “Daddy’s Homes,” contributed short stories to “Philadelphia Noir” and “Liar, Liar” and done public speaking.