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Kingsport church plans downtown prayer walk

Marci Gore • Mar 23, 2016 at 8:13 AM

KINGSPORT — In an effort to make downtown Kingsport a safer place in which to live and work, Rev. Will Shewey, the pastor of Shades of Grace United Methodist Church, says the church will participate in a “Good Friday Community Prayer Walk with the Cross” on Friday.

The walk will begin at 11 a.m. on Good Friday in front of Shades of Grace, which is located at 313 East Sullivan Street in downtown Kingsport.

Shewey says he wants to bring an awareness to what he calls a “serious drug epidemic” in parts of downtown Kingsport.

“We deal with it every day here at Shades of Grace,” he said. “If people think there’s not an epidemic, then they just absolutely are too busy living their own lives to notice. It’s in their own families — their children, their parents. It’s everywhere. It affects all walks of life — young people, old people, there’s no age to this. And it’s not only in Kingsport. It’s in Sullivan County and Scott County. Anywhere you go in America, it is a scourge in our society. It’s like a modern-day leprosy.”

Friday’s walk will take participants by the areas where Shewey says there is known drug activity.

“We want to go by a couple of the crack houses and a city park where there’s a lot of drug activity going on. We want to stop at a few places and pray, as a community, for God’s light to prevail over all the problems that are going on,” Shewey said.

Shewey says in recent months Shades of Grace has seen a serious heroin problem in the nearby area.

“You didn't hear about heroin much just a few years ago,” Shewey said. “We had a drug symposium back in the fall and an officer from the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office came to talk to us. He said what happened is outsiders came in with really cheap heroine. They sold it cheaper than what the drug users were buying their other drugs for — that is, until they got them hooked. Then, once they’re hooked, they raise the price and then the people are addicted and they’ll do anything to get their drugs. It’s a compulsion they cannot control once they’ve taken that step into drugs.”

Today, however, like many other areas across the nation, it’s not just the illegal drugs that are causing local problems.

Kingsport Police Department Public Information Officer Tom Patton says much of the drug-related complaints the police department deals with involve prescription drugs.

“While the Kingsport Police Department still deals with criminal and quality of life issues involving alcohol and traditional illegal street drugs, the number one drug that is currently causing problems in this area is prescription medication. The problem with drugs is that they tend to circumnavigate all socioeconomic levels. No one is immune from the damage they cause. And this is especially true of prescription medication, because, for some reason, pills don’t seem to carry the same negative social stigma as other drugs,” said Patton.

Shewey said he invites anyone who would like to participate in Friday’s walk to come join them.

“We would love for everybody to come, people of all ages. We've invited our homeless friends to join us,” he said. “Kingsport is a wonderful city. We want to take our beautiful city back. I hear it all the time...people say somebody’s got to do something. We are ‘somebody’ so we’ve got to do that ‘something.’ We want to make it known that we care about downtown Kingsport and we want to make it a better place — a safer place.”

Shewey says a community meal, available to everyone, will be served at Shades of Grace following Friday’s prayer walk.

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