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The ties that bind
Local pastor leads nonpartisan prayer service on the Covington square
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 The day after Barack Obama's historical presidential win and the close of what has been one of the most divisive and tense political seasons in decades, Newton County residents came together to pray for unity and healing for the nation in the days ahead.
Held on the Covington square Wednesday afternoon, the prayer circle was organized by the Rev. Eric Lee of Springfield Baptist Church and attended by a number of current and newly elected officials, teachers, civic leaders and church clergy.
"We're here today because democracy has worked again," Lee told the large assembled crowd. "We're here because it's time to stop being divided and to be the United States of America again. It's time to be nonpartisan. It's time to be believers."
Lee cited the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a deeply troubled economy as reasons to join and work together in the days ahead.
Individual prayers were held for soldiers serving abroad, the county's first responders, families and the school system.
Dr. Roderick Sams, principal of Newton High School, led a prayer and an appeal for more community involvement in the county's schools.
"I would like to appeal to you to be a part of an effort that we will be responsible for moving our district forward," Sams said, adding that parents and even those without children should look at the financial challenges and student achievement challenges of the county's schools as "an opportunity to rise and move forward."
The Rev. David Payne of The Church At Covington led a prayer for community unity.
"A nation divided against itself, cannot stand. A community divided against itself, cannot stand," he said. "I believe that it's imperative that we pray for our leadership on a regular basis regardless of their [political] affiliation."
Lee had all current and newly elected officials, civil servants and educators come forward for a special blessing. All those assembled then linked arms in prayer. Those gathered on the square included equal amounts black and white residents. Afterwards everyone freely mixed together, exchanging handshakes, hugs and greetings underneath a bright blue sky.
"We are elected in a rough economic time in our country," said Covington Mayor Kim Carter, who advised the crowd, "don't forget to talk with each other."