By Jack Hill
(BALTIMORE – June 21, 2016) – A Baltimore-based pastor, Rev. Dr. Jean Donnell is making an unusual clarion call for prayer to fix the city’s mounting woes. Donnell, a 64 -year-old pastor at Restoration Temple Church located in Northeast Baltimore, is well-known for her prophetic tone and inspiring self-help style sermons.
The 1,000-seat sanctuary, once known as a 40-lane bowling alley, sits on 2.8 acres of land and is now part of what Donnell describes as a unified coalition of pastors who represent large and small congregations throughout Baltimore.
Donnell, the founder of the Surrounding Baltimore in Prayer initiative, describes the organizing effort as a prayer and evangelical movement to help empower Baltimoreans and the church to use prayer in a troubled and violent city that has recorded nearly 117 killings already this year, and 17 in the Northwestern District, just blocks away from the church’s Northeast location.
The organizing effort is nothing new for the Restoration Temple church community, which has organized around community initiatives over the years. The church has long sought to meet the needs of the community through humanitarian efforts, mission trips, and walkathons in support of victims of domestic violence.
“As a church we are always looking for ways to be good stewards in the community, and the idea for the S.B.P initiative came from Pastor Doyle ‘Buddy’ Harrison of Faith Christian Fellowship in Tulsa, who was very strategic in planting churches, but also taught us the power of stewardship and ‘Surrounding Tulsa in Prayer,” which is where we borrowed the name and strategy for this work,” said Donnell.
Months after the church hosted congregants and community members for a showing of the motion picture film “War Room,” Donnell became inspired by the film and told a crowded sanctuary of faithful churchgoers that “we are going North, South, East and West of Baltimore to pray for the pulling down of strongholds on our city.”
In recent months, Donnell has garnered a formidable following through social media, and clergy networks to push citizens to take action through organized, “unapologetic” prayer.
The charismatic pastor has become a more vocal representation of Baltimore’s spiritual community in the months following the controversial death and trial surrounding Freddie Gray, a highly politicized and troubled public school system, a contentious election season, and more recent allegations from community leaders highlighting Baltimore’s flawed voting system. The inaugural gathering for the S.B.P initiative was held at Central Presbyterian Church in Towson, Maryland. Donnell was joined by local clergy members Devial Foster, Benita Keane Johnson, and Kenny Alexander.
Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, also endorsed the effort with issues he felt needed the most prayer. The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 29th, targeting West Baltimore. The meeting will be held at the Hope Baptist Church in the Northwest District.