tampabay.com

'It's not a black thing or white thing'

By GAIL HOLLENBECK
Published January 13, 2007


LECANTO - A highlight of the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend celebration will be a community worship service at 5 p.m. Sunday at Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church.

The service is a combined effort by Bishop Leonard Smith (Fountain of Life Restoration Ministries Church), Andrea McCray-Holly (Community Action Foundation of Citrus County) and Seven Rivers.

"The service will be about unifying the body of Christ and our community, as well," Smith said. "We understand that Martin Luther King was a civil activist. He was a catalyst in bringing forth economic change and equality throughout the whole nation, but the one thing that we fail to recognize is that he was a spiritual leader as well. It's important, and I think he would agree, that we shed importance on spiritual reconciliation with God as well as racial reconciliation with all mankind."

Robert Smith, professor of Christian preaching at Beeson Divinity School of Birmingham, Ala., will be the guest speaker for the service.

Smith, who will also preach during Seven Rivers' regular church services (6 p.m. today and 9 and 10:50 a.m. Sunday), is an ordained Baptist minister and served as pastor of New Mission Missionary Baptist Church for 20 years before returning to complete his Ph.D. He is the author of a study of Christian ministry in the African-American church, Preparing for Christian Ministry, and co-editor of A Mighty Long Journey. His research interests include the place of passion in preaching, the literary history of African-American preaching, Christological preaching and theologies of preaching.

At Beeson, Smith teaches Christian preaching and other electives in homiletics. He received the school's Teacher of the Year award in 2005.

The community service will last about an hour and a half and will include special music by a community choir composed of choir members from various churches. Worship will be led by several area pastors.

There will be a time of fellowship and desserts after the service.

McCray-Holly wants to make sure the whole community knows it is invited.

"That's probably the biggest thing about this," she said. "It's not a black thing or white thing. All churches in the community are invited."

Tara Bryant, community ministries director at Seven Rivers, has worked for the past two years on the annual event and has watched it blossom. She hopes it will continue to grow.

"I would love some day to have a big march coming from Crystal River and another coming from Inverness and everybody meet here in the center of the county to worship, which I think would be so cool," she said. "Maybe just have a meeting on the grounds and just a day of celebration.

"Martin Luther King weekend is not the focus of what we hope will happen here," she said. "It's maybe the trigger, but we want this to be a year-round effort at getting to know one another better, dialoguing and really working together."

IF YOU GO

Community worship

A community worship service begins at 5 p.m. Sunday at Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church, 4221 W Gulf to Lake Highway, Lecanto. A nursery will be provided for children up to age 4. A parade will begin at Crystal River Middle School, 344 NE Crystal St., at 10 a.m. Monday. The parade will conclude at Copeland Park, 850 NW Third St., where there will be free food, games for children, entertainment and health screenings available 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 746-6200.