Recent incidents across the country that led to the deaths of African Americans and other injustices have resulted in a tremendous strain between the black community and law enforcement.
However, some communities are working to prevent division.
New Horizon Church, a United Methodist congregation in Haines City, participated in a peace march on Oct. 9.
The 3.2-mile walk began at Trinity Worship Center and ended at Haines City’s Lake Eva Park.
“What we were saying in our community was, because of all of the things that are happening in the world, we don't see that type of injustice in our communities, and we want to be proactive in coming together, showing solidarity,” New Horizon senior pastor Frank Adams said.
“Around the nation we have seen all the tragedies and all the injustices, all the division that we see on the news, and we wanted to bring our community closer together and not wait for something” to happen.
Despite fears that some people would use the event to highlight the things that divide the small Polk County community, Adams said it was well-done, well-attended and held in the “right spirit” of solidarity.
|Pastor Frank Adams (right), of New Horizon UMC, Haines City, is shown here at a recent event along with Larry Thomas, vice president of Unity in the Community, Inc.|
“We had church vans available to pick up walkers who couldn’t finish the walk, but wanted to attend the event at Lake Eva Park,” Adams wrote in a newsletter. “We had refresh stations. And personally, I loved the chants of the Methodist walkers,” saying to drivers who passed by, “'Honk if you love Jesus!' or 'Here We Go, Jesus, Here We Go!'”
Adams, 48, a native of Orlando, has been pastor of New Horizon since July 2015. He is a member of the executive committee of the Haines City chapter of Unity in the Community of Central Florida.
The program included a keynote address by the Rev. Dr. Rolous A. Frazier, Jr., of St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church in Orlando, as well as a diverse group of other speakers, including Dr. Charles Anderson, chairman of Haines City’s Unity in the Community chapter, who Adams said gave an inspiring explanation of the purpose of the peace march.
After the worship service at the band shell in Lake Eva Park, about 200 people from more than a dozen different churches, as well as people from the community, attended a fellowship dinner sponsored by Claude Holmes’ Funeral Home.
Haines City interim city manager Richard Sloan, Mayor Horace West, City Commissioner Morris West and several officials from law enforcement participated in coordinating the walk and participated in the festivities.
“We had clergy and laity alike on the stage, collaborating together in a show of unity and love, by offering prayers, blessings, songs, dances and words of general encouragement” at the park, Adams said.
The 2 1/2 hour event was the first ever Peace Walk in Haines City. “We are confident it will be planned, led and hosted again next year by Unity in the Community, Inc., in conjunction with local law enforcement, city officials, churches and the community at large,” Adams wrote.
Following up after the walk, community leaders and residents were scheduled to meet Nov. 15 to discuss issues that divide the city.
“We're in a better place, but we need to celebrate that and move forward,” Adams said. “We want to be proactive and bring people together.”
--Ed Scott is a freelance writer based in Venice.