By Joel Hall
The spiritual, political and community leaders of Clayton County gathered in Morrow early Thursday to pray and thank God for positive changes in the county.
The Clayton County Ministers' Conference's annual Community Prayer Breakfast took place at the National Archives, Southeast Region, on Jonesboro Road. The program, which coincided with the National Day of Prayer, encouraged the community to unite around its faith.
State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Ellenwood), who organized the program, said this year's breakfast was particularly reflective, due to the fact that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) restored the Clayton County school system's accreditation - on a probationary status - on May 1. The system's accreditation was stripped last year by the agency, which cited a "dysfunctional" school board.
Glanton said the breakfast, attended by about 200 people, "is evidence to the power of prayer."
"We were coming through quite a few crises at the same time" last year, Glanton said. "While we still have some challenges that are ahead of us, we are beginning to see God's blessing manifested through our faith. Today, Clayton County is a better Clayton County and I believe it is through the power of prayer."
The program included a presentation of the colors by the Clayton County Sheriff's Office, a proclamation presented by Clayton County Commissioner Sonna Singleton, and gospel music by local performers ZAMAR, and Liz Yancey. Christian pastors of various denominations offered words of prayer and encouragement for the county.
Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond was the Prayer Breakfast's keynote speaker. He urged the county to continue to focus on education, and encouraged cooperation among the county's leaders.
"Last year, we prayed as a county for the accreditation for Clayton County Schools," Thurmond said. "He [God] answered the prayers of the people and the children of this county.
"We have to be a coalition across economic, racial, and political lines," Thurmond continued. "That's what this program represents. If people continue to come together, it will pay dividends going forward."
Valya Lee, interim superintendent of Clayton County Public Schools, told the audience that the school system has now met most of the mandates required by SACS to achieve full accreditation. However, she said it is up to the community to make full accreditation a reality.
"Sometimes when you get exactly what you want right away, you forget from whence you came, so we are happy that the Lord has held our feet to the fire," Lee said. "A lot has gone on in this community and our school system, primarily because people weren't watching. Even though we are on the first rung of the ladder, the eyes of the state are upon us, the eyes of the nation are upon us. We have to watch and pray."
Yulonda Beauford, president and CEO of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, said she believes continued prayer and cooperation will make a difference in the county.
"What a difference a year makes," Beauford said. "I look forward to this event every year because it gives us a chance to be unified. We have to continue to forge ahead and work together."