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Leaders seek divine help for school district, economy

By Joel Hall

Early Thursday morning, local ministers, community activists, and political leaders put aside their differences to pray for the world, the nation, the state, the county, and the Clayton County School Board.

In celebration of the National Day of Prayer on May 1, the Clayton County Ministers Conference hosted its annual Community Breakfast. In keeping with this year's national theme, "Prayer: America's Strength and Shield," the breakfast focused on maintaining a prayerful relationship with God in the midst of national and local turmoil.

"We are in a recession," said Rev. Mike Glanton, president of the Clayton County Ministers Conference. "This economic downturn we are facing is not unique to Clayton County.

"We know that we, this community, are in crisis," Glanton continued. "We are not in denial ... but we know that God is in control."

Pastors from throughout the county offered prayer, asking God to give wisdom and guidance to the county's political leaders and to bring a favorable end to the Clayton County Public Schools accreditation crisis. Juvenile Court judge Steve Teske, known for being a firm believer in second chances, was the event's keynote speaker.

Teske said "the key to having a relationship with God is prayer," and the problems of Clayton County will not resolve themselves without prayer.

"Without that relationship, we are not going to have that shield or the strength to get through what we are suffering through," said Teske. "Miracles happen when you are in a relationship with God."

Teske said while being aware of the problems in Clayton County, it is also important to remember the positives. He said despite the school system accreditation crisis, the Jonesboro High School Mock Trial Team became national champions last year, and in he fall of 2007 and spring of 2008, E.W. Oliver Elementary School defeated high school and university teams in the state's Stock Market Competition.

"We have to be able to count the good things in the midst of the sandstorm," said Teske. "When we find ourselves in troubled waters, we have to count our blessings."

Rev. Charles W. Grant, president-emeritus of the Clayton County Ministers Conference, said the program has grown exponentially over the years. He valued the opportunity to unite around a common goal.

"In spite of our various philosophies, we can come together," said Grant. "We've been energized around this ... to get things settled for the sake of the children. We have to get past personal egos and make that a priority."