Man’s weekly downtown prayer vigil prompted by current events

Harold Johnson was prompted by this time of social unrest, global pandemic and political strife to offer up weekly prayers and to provide hope for the community. Photo by Vickie Carpenter

Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer

Harold Johnson, 74, has for the past six weeks, stood for three hours at the corner of Main and Phillips Street in Franklin on Tuesdays holding a “Jesus is the Answer” banner. He explained that he is not there to condemn anyone, but to provide hope during this current time of a pandemic, social unrest, and political strife. 

Johnson said he has been involved in ministry since he lived in Florida, 15 years ago, and decided recently to do “his part” by showing up each week from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., playing music, holding the banner, and offering to speak to and pray with people about the “hope of Jesus.”

“I wound up on that corner due to where our nation is. We need the security of knowing what that banner says, that Jesus is the answer,” he said.

Because the area outside the courthouse is open for public forum,  individuals and groups meet there periodically or regularly pray. Johnson, in fact, has been praying the first Friday night each month with the Prayer Against Drugs group. 

“The corner is active for prayer time outside of a brick and mortar church.”

Johnson explained that he not connected with the individual or group with the “Repent” signage. “My motive is to proclaim that Jesus Christ is the answer. The ‘repent’ concept sometimes comes across as gloom and doom. I’m not doom and gloom … not trying to scare people. Jesus is hope, and prayer changes things. I believe there will be a change when individuals make a Godly heart change, which will ultimately improve the social and political unrest in our country today.”

While Johnson makes himself available each Tuesday, his wife, Marla, walks Main Street and prays for her husband and for the people he may have a chance to share with. 

“I’ve been able to encourage some people,” he said. “Many people smile and wave. The music is meant to bring peace … soothing and consoling. One or two people have been ugly, but that’s to be expected. Most are open to this message. Franklin is an awesome town; Macon County has an awesome group of people.”

Johnson uses a small portable sound system with wireless capability to access a playlist on his phone that includes a mixture of old hymns and new Christian music. 

“I’m not locked into one particular vein of music. I just look for anointed and worshipful.”

While making himself available each Tuesday, Johnson said he has experienced “several incidences of encouragement. One person that he had known previously, someone who overcame a life of homelessness and other challenges due to a faith in Christ, stopped by to give Johnson an update.

 “He overcame his struggles and is now a productive part of the community, and that’s what this message is all about.”

Even though he has noticed a “gulf of separation between the younger and older generation,” he shared that young people have stopped to speak to him. “And two young men stopped and asked if they could pray over me. It blessed me. It’s about how we need to know this Jesus, this Christ. That’s the motivation.”

Since the public can reserve the area at the corner of Main and Phillips Street for eight weeks at a time, Johnson said he will petition the town for “future dates and time slots.”  

Johnson insisted that he is not trying to draw attention to himself. “The Bible says it takes the holy spirit to woo and draw. But sometimes it takes us to be God’s vehicle. I’m privileged and honored to be allowed to do it. We’ve all got to do something … how minimal or small, that’s not the question. Just do something.”