By Linda Looney-Bond
About 50 ministers gathered Thursday for the annual prayer breakfast of the Clayton County Ministers' Conference, and the Clayton County Sheriff's Office chaplains.
The breakfast was held at the Harold R. Banke Justice Center.
"The purpose is to bring ministers and pastors from around the county together, at the beginning of the year, to pray for those things that are hoped for in 2010," said State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Ellenwood), who is also president of the Clayton County Ministers' Conference.
"It's an opportunity for us to come and pray with, and for, the sheriff, to pray for this particular building -- whether we're praying for the inmates, or praying for our judges and staff in this building -- and obviously to pray for Clayton County as a whole," said Glanton, who is also the pastor of New Life Christian Church in Jonesboro.
During the gathering, the ministers blessed the meal, broke bread, and joined in singing the gospel song, "I Will Trust in the Lord."
Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough, who addressed the group, said that fostering relationships among clergy members and those in law enforcement benefits the community as a whole.
"We want to make sure that we are casting the net as far and wide as we can to make available the services that the public pays for -- and what better way to do that than by engaging community pillars, the schools, neighborhood associations, and our churches," said Kimbrough.
"It's just like with a machine, preventative maintenance is always more effective and always less costly than repair work, after something tears up.
"And if we are able to foster relationships with these congregations, then, we're also creating a conduit whereby we can fix problems before they become too major to deal with," he said. "Hopefully, we can not only prevent crime, but we can also teach lessons, and we can reach out to people to solve their problems, before they become the 911 situation."
Kimbrough said, as part of that effort, deputies who are members of the sheriff's office community relations unit, visit churches, schools and civic organizations often to speak to community groups.
During the breakfast, Kimbrough also thanked Aramark, the food service provider for the sheriff's office, for donating food for the gathering. "Aramark graciously donates that in furtherance of their civic commitment to Clayton County," he said.
Pastor Lonnie White, III, of New Revelation Missionary Baptist Church, in Riverdale, said he attended the breakfast for the first time Thursday.
"Our sheriff is spirit-filled," he said. "And I do believe that the faith community, coming together, can help him get his job accomplished."