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The Sarasota Prayer Rally went off with only minor, weather-related glitches at the Goodwill building on Dr. Martin Luther King Way. As the hour drew near to start the event, I couldn’t help but notice that it was raining through the sunlight…never a good sign (if you follow that kind of stuff!). As odd as that was, what really struck me was that it was fine, weather-wise, until within 30 minutes of the event…then the bottom fell out!
As I made my way to the venue, looking up the road, I saw that the rain was only getting worse. Still I pressed on. You see, over the years, I’ve come to realize that when people of faith strive to do the right things, the opposition rears its ugly head to prevent it! That only motivates me! So I pressed on through.
Imagine my surprise when I arrived to full parking lots and people under umbrellas doing their best to squeeze into the doors! Yes!!! The rain didn’t stop anyone from coming! Those who wanted to be there made sure that they were there!
As I made my way into the building, I was met with a familiar voice, that of County Commissioner Carolyn Mason, sharing her inspiration and dedication to change and improvement within the community. Everyone within that room was unified in purpose and spirit. We had all gathered there to pray for Newtown…to pray for a positive change…to pray for the hand of God to sweep through the area and the minds of it’s residents and government. To usher in a spirit of ownership that would create a sense of pride, possibility and potential that seems to have seen its final days in the Newtown community.
However, as the clouds gave way to the spirit of victory rushing upwards from that place, one thing struck me right in my gut: it wasn’t the fact that the room was mainly filled with white people praying for a black community; it wasn’t the fact that those gathered there ranged in age from as young as 6 years-old to as senior as 82; it wasn’t that most of the faces there were familiar to me from Harvest House aka Harvest Tabernacle (Pastor Jim Minor)…what struck me was the absence of the black churches at the event!
It’s a sad commentary on our level of connection and commitment to the challenge of turning this community around when a church organization can come in from 2 miles away and rally our support yet, none of the 11 churches within walking distance from the venue can do the same!
Where was The Pentacostal Church of God?
Where was Firstborn Church?
Where was the Church of Christ?
Where was Trinity Multi-Cultural Life Church?
Where was Greater Hurst Chapel?
Where was New Bethel Baptist Church?
Where was Community Bible Church?
Where was Truvine Baptist Church?
Where was Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church?
Where was Mount Calvalry Missionary Baptist Church?
Where was Bethel CME Church?
The most common cry from within the community is that “the white folks are doing this, that or the other thing…” In all honesty, I welcome action from ANYONE to improve the situation but, why does it seem that anyone from without our community has to come within the community on our behalf? Whenever a conflict arises outside US borders, our first commentary is that we need to take care of our own backyard first! Well, Newtown, we’ve needed a rallying of our churches to reclaim our community for years now! What are you going to do? How many more times will we allow those who are obviously cheering in support of us to come in and rescue us from ourselves?!
Is it just that hard to drop our petty differences and unite for the very communities that we minister to? Regaining control of our community should be a common message from the pulpit at least once a month and a unified rally, of those same churches that I’ve listed here in their absence at this event, should happen at least that often! As long as these wars have raged on, the older soldiers are growing weary in the battle. Who will take up the cause and continue for the betterment of the community? Our children will do what they see us do yet, all they can bear witness to is a lot of jaw-jacking and posturing.
Regardless of the price of gas, talk has ALWAYS been cheap! And you can’t expect anything cheap to be effective or long-lasting!
This is part of the reason that the Newtown community has been labeled as leaderless. From the pulpit to our city government, we seem left to the whims and insistence of others. Historically, we’ve turned to the churches for direction, guidance and support. Yet, here we are in the midst of a generational crisis and our churches offer little more than a collection point for our financial resources! A lot of rhetorical talk and prayers with little effort… Faith without works truly is dead! If we could talk away the issues, we wouldn’t be in the shape we’re in right now. We now have a greater voice in our city and county government than ever and yet the cry from our elected representatives is that they’re only “one person” on a panel of X number of people…yet any one of those X number of people seems able to make the changes that their constituents are looking for! Whether you think you can or you think that you can’t – you’ll be right! When you’re fighting for what’s right, let nothing and no one stand in your way! And if you feel that your voice isn’t loud enough to be effectively heard, then you muster up support to get the right thing done. Don’t tuck tail and tell those around you how little your strength is – ants move mountains when they work together!
I truly applaud the successful turnout of the Sarasota Prayer Rally and its organizers! There is a desire for renewal and restoration within the Newtown community. One that will reach far beyond the boundaries of District 1. Now if only we could get the people inside those boundaries to unite in achieving those goals, we would all have a reason to be proud once again!