Friday night more than 1,000 people gathered at Boutwell Auditorium for a prayer rally hosted by Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford.
At the arena entrance, ministers greeted visitors with sackcloths and ashes. The voice of James Earl Jones reading from Revelation boomed through the auditorium speakers. Above the crowd, two wide white banners hung from the ceiling. Each read, "A world without Jesus is a mess waiting to happen - Mayor Larry P. Langford."
On either side of the stage, two projector screens displayed the Birmingham skyline with the message "A city not forsaken." On those screens, the event began with an animated film of the last supper, crucifixion and resurrection.
Langford took the stage with a group from Indiana who had come to Birmingham to take part in the event. True to his word, Langford traded in his Gus Mayer suits for a burlap sack, although he did still wear a Rolex watch and designer shoes.
"The only reason he is here is because God put him here," T. L. Lewis, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, said of Mayor Langford at the end of a lengthy and raucous sermon. Lewis told the crowd not to tolerate "journalistic terrorism" and said that no one could harm Langford because God was protecting him.
Langford closed the event, drawing largely on his stock of political boilerplate.
"What in hell do you want?" Langford asked the crowd, a line he uses frequently. "There has got to be something in hell we want because we are fighting so hard to get there."
Mayor Langford called the event because of rising crime in Birmingham. The city's murder rate is out-pacing 2007 by more than 40 percent.
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Sackcloth and Ashes Highlights
Sackcloth and Ashes Finale Part One
Sackcloth and Ashes Finale Part Two