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Prayer rally to stress unity

By Ed Brock

On Saturday Clayton County's parents, students and educators will bow their heads together in prayer for a peaceful school year.

The Clayton County Back to School Prayer Rally will be held in Tara Stadium on Battle Creek Road near Jonesboro at 7 p.m. Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell will give the welcome and introduction at the rally and speakers will include Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Pulliam, Board of Education Chairwoman Ericka Davis and state Rep. Gail Buckner, D-Jonesboro.

At 5 p.m. parents and students can browse through various booths offering information on the counties educational and recreational resources, said the Rev. Dean Haun with the First Baptist Church of Jonesboro that is one of the sponsors of the event.

"The idea is to make it a time of prayer and support for our school administrators, leaders, teachers and students as they prepare to go back to school," Haun said. "I think all of us are concerned with some of the gang violence we had last year."

Last year two high school students, 14-year-old Forest Park High School freshman Krystal Williams and 18-year-old Mundy's Mill High School Senior Larry Bishop, Jr. were killed in separate incidents.

Jonesboro First United Methodist held a prayer vigil for the school year last weekend. Many churches held individual prayers for the schools before, Haun said, but this is the first year for such organized prayer services.

"It gives people the opportunity to feel like they are part of the solution and not just spectators," Haun said.

Other sponsors of this Saturday's rally are New Birth South Church of Jonesboro and the newly formed Faith Based Committee. The committee represents an effort to unite the county's faith community, Bell said.

"At one time there was a black organization and there was another organization with mainly white members," Bell said. "I'm happy to report that they've come together. I endorse it whole-heartedly."

Bell said he will tell the people who come to the rally about the vision of pulling the community together to make the school system better. As for the gang violence, Bell points out that over the summer there has been less news about such crimes.

"I believe that the coming together of the faith community, the school system, the county government and the community as a whole has definitely had an impact on the future of our children," Bell said.