I thought it was just another political step for support, a Let's get a group of people together, tell them they have some say so they will feel like they are a part of things and maybe rally support for us while we do what we want. I am skeptical that way. I attended the first Council of Clergy meeting months ago - skeptical. I attended the second monthly meeting, still skeptical. Then somewhere around the third or fourth meeting it changed...
We were discussing how as churches we might work together to bring unity to our city - racial unity, socioeconomic unity, class unity... you name it and it divides our city. One of the attendees stood and said, "Tragedy always seems to unite a city. I am not hoping for tragedy, but maybe that is what it is going to take to unite Macon." There were a few head nods and a brief silence. Then our mayor, Robert Reichert asked if he could speak (he is actually the one who put these meetings together). He stood and began to speak - face a little red, voice cracking and a passion I had not heard from him before. he said something like this as I remember it:
With all due respect, you are saying that we may NEED a tragedy in order to be united and I want to point out that there is tragedy all around us! Our schools are broken, our entire educational system is far behind the national averages in test scores and graduation rates. Our crime rate is among the nations worst and we have just had four homicides. Our streets are not safe. Our unemployment is high. We have racial strife and division. There is no lack of tragedy in our city and I tell you the truth if we don't see changes soon we will crumble. We don't need more tragedy, we need to come together over the terrible tragedy that already exists.
And then he sat down as council members and other city leaders shook their heads in agreement. He was absolutely right. And he had the boldness to call it. And in a minute or two my skepticism vanished, and not just mine.
In the few months since that meeting a group of clergy from various faiths and denominations vowed to pray daily for our city and to encourage our congregations to do the same. And not just to pray but to serve and to be involved in the efforts of city officials to see our city thrive. We have also began praying together here, at The 567 prior to our Council of Clergy meetings. Each month various pastors have shared how they have encouraged their congregations to pray for the city. At New City we have added a pre-service prayer time that focuses in part on praying for our city. Is it a coincidence that over these months we have seen a drop in homicides, a drop in crime, a rise in employment, commitments of new and expanding business in the area, and other monies coming into the city for various projects? Or is it God's favor?
I believe this is a very unique opportunity! Will you join me and a number of other congregations, black and white, conservative and liberal, Christian and non-Christian, democrat and republican... to pray for our city? I believe something BIG is happening.