By Joel Hall
Local ministers, and employees of the Clayton County Sheriff's Office, will have a chance to network, fellowship, and pray for favor in the new year, during the Clayton County Ministers' Conference's annual Minister's Prayer Breakfast.
The Chaplain's Office of the Sheriff's Office will co-host the breakfast, which will take place in the second-floor cafeteria of the Harold R. Banke Justice Center on Thursday, Jan. 7, at 8 a.m.
According to state Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Ellenwood), president of the Clayton County Ministers' Conference, the tradition was started more than 10 years ago through the efforts of conference members, James Powell, Wilbert Jordan, Charles W. Grant and Stan Owen. Glanton said Owen served as chaplain of the Sheriff's Office at the time of the breakfast's inception.
"The original intent was to allow the ministers to come together at the beginning of the year and pray for the community going forward," Glanton said. "Traditionally, we have also taken a tour of the jail and, in some cases, have even talked to some of the inmates. The jail ministry has evolved over there due to this partnership. Many of the ministers who come to this breakfast begin supporting the jail ministry in some capacity."
Glanton said the breakfast will be free to all ministers and pastors in Clayton County, regardless of affiliation. During the program, ministers will also listen to inspirational music by local choir members and hear comments from representatives of the sheriff's Chaplain's Office, as well as Sheriff Kem Kimbrough, according to Glanton.
Kimbrough said the prayer breakfast helps create a "strategic partnership" between the Sheriff's Office and community members visiting local churches. He said that by fostering a relationship between ministers and the Sheriff's Office, ministers will have "direct access" to county resources that can benefit their congregations.
"In the years past, the linkage between the ministers and the Sheriff's Office [has been that] the people who come to jail and the relatives of people who go to jail ... it is a very trying time for them and the ministers attend to their spiritual needs," Kimbrough said. "I want to take that one step further. Let's try to take that to the churches and try to solve some of the problems of society before they come to the attention of the criminal justice system. It [the prayer breakfast] keeps us closer to the community, which is important. Any time we create another point of access to the community for the services we provide, that is a good thing."
Jordan, vice president of the Clayton County Ministers' Conference and pastor of Faith in Christ Mission Outreach Center in Jonesboro, said the breakfast serves as a networking opportunity for local ministers, but also as a way for law enforcement to have a better relationship with the community.
"We want our congregations to know that they [law enforcement officials] are nobody to fear and that they are human, too," Jordan said. "When someone in our congregation is locked up, by having a relationship with the sheriff, we have access to our people. A lot of times, members of the sheriff's department can speak to the youth in our congregation. It [the relationship] helps them and it helps us."
The Harold R. Banke Justice Center is located at 9157 Tara Blvd., in Jonesboro. For more information about the prayer breakfast, call (678) 479-7730, (770) 471-1122 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.