MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A beloved event, bringing many community members together, returns to downtown Memphis for the first time in almost three years.

It’s a return that organizers and community members agree is a timely one. WREG was there and explains why it’s back from its hiatus.

Saturday morning, dozens gathered outside 201 Poplar to hold hands in prayer. This morning Bloomfield Baptist Church hosted Hands Around 201 Poplar.

Organizers are bringing back this event for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Pastor Maurice Fuller says with everything that has happened in the city over the last few months, we need prayer now more than ever.

“Memphis is a beautiful and amazing place and just because we have had negative things happen doesn’t mean that Memphis is a negative city,” Pastor Fuller said.

In the past seven months, Memphis has seen several high-profile murders, including Eliza Fletcher and Pastor Autura Eason-Williams. The shooting spree by Ezekiel Kelly that left three dead – and Tyre Nichols death after being beaten by five former Memphis Police officers.

These are just a few of the major stories that brought a few dozen out to pray.

“There is a lot of hurt, there is a lot of frustration, a lot of questions and I think the body of Christ coming together and just wrapping hands around not only 201 but our city I think it speaks volumes,” Eric Ballentine said, a community organizer.

Saturday morning, WREG spoke to a man who lives near where a woman was found shot to death overnight. He says, when he saw police investigators, he wasn’t surprised.

“Just another day in the city, death happens every day. Just pray for her family,” the man said. 

Pastor Fuller says that type of normalization of violence is why they pray.

“Any time those tragic things become a norm i believe we are losing the sensitivity of those things that are happening in our city – in our community and in our county,” Pastor Fuller said.

Ballentine says the news out of Memphis has been so bad — he has family in different states calling just to check in on him.

“[I] get a lot of calls texts, and social media just asking what’s happening in memphis, but it also shows that people are concerned — and have a heart and just a passion for this community,” Ballentine said.

This was the first year for the event without its founder Reverend Ralph White, who passed away in 2019.