NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — As a black man, the events of the last week and a half have pained Tony Clark.

But at the same time, part of what he has seen has also brought him joy.

Clark is senior pastor of Calvary Chapel in Newport News and has been since 1994. Since that time, his congregation has become more and more diverse.

“When we first started the church, it was 98 percent white. Now it is a multicultural church. It is a church that consists of people from 30 different countries,” Clark said.

Friday night, he decided to expand on that diversity even further to put on a prayer service with other local churches. For one hour, people from all backgrounds and age groups stood in the Calvary Chapel parking lot to worship and pray.

Since the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, protests against police brutality have broken out across the nation. Several turned violent with fires set and stores looted.

“We want to show the world there’s oneness within the church,” Clark said.

But Clark has also seen a different type of “oneness” among the unrest.

He explained he lived in Detroit during the riots of 1967 and was in California in 1992 following the acquittal of police officers in the beating of Rodney King.

“The difference that I’ve seen, is that there are more white people locking arms with black people today in the midst of riots or protesting than I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen to this level,” Clark said.

Clark believes it is helping to broaden the message that racial inequality still exists. He doesn’t shy away from teaching about what the Bible says about it, either.

“It’s a defining moment for the church because we must get this right,” Clark said. “If we don’t get this race issue right, if we don’t get it right, then the church will lose. But if we get it right and show a unity I believe it can be its finest hour.”

Correction: The on-air version of this story stated an incorrect cause for the riots of 1992 in Los Angeles, California. WAVY regrets the error.

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