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Aiming for unity through a Walk by Faith
Walking the walk: The Newton High School Marching band leads the procession in last year's Walk by Faith, which saw 1,800 attendees.

Churches across Rockdale County will once again come together to begin the new year in spiritual unity and to raise food for the hungry during the third annual Walk by Faith on Jan. 2.

The mile-long walking portion of the Walk by Faith, organized by a coalition of more than two dozen churches called the Rockdale United Summit, will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Salem Gate Plaza shopping center, just off of Ga. Highway 138, travel along Iris Drive and end at the Church in the Now, where a unity worship service and celebration will be held.

"We’re a greater force for change when we come together," said Pastor Eric Lee of Springfield Baptist Church. "We believe that when churches come together, there’s a synergy, and there is a greater resource made available and transformation becomes possible because of the mixture of natural resources and spiritual resources."

Lee added, "Our roots are such that as the church goes, the community goes."

Attendees are asked to bring food donations and canned goods. Last year, with about 1800 participants, the Summit was able to fill a tractor-trailer truck full of food to deliver to Rockdale Emergency Relief, said Summit organizer and county Chairman Richard Oden. This year they hope to fill two-tractor trailers.

The Rockdale United Summit will also present the third annual L.C. Palmer Community Service award, which recognizes a community member or members that have made a significant contribution in improving the community’s well-being through voluntary efforts. The first two awards went to L.C. Palmer, a retired public educator, and Coach Cleveland Stroud, now a Conyers city council member.

This year, the Summit will also introduce a new award, recognizing a clergy-person in the community. The identity of the award-winners will be a surprise until announced at the ceremony. The celebration will also honor veterans and high school seniors graduating in 2010.

The goal of the Summit, said L.C. Palmer, one of its founders, is to "improve the conditions for the citizens of Rockdale County in as many ways as we can." The coalition focuses on areas ranging from senior citizens, the youth, family and relationships and health care.

"In education, one of the things we learned, a number of years ago, you can’t teach children that are hungry until you help solve those problems at home," said Palmer.

"The same way is true in witnessing. Trying to get people to see the need for having a relationship with God, you’ve got to help them do those things and get their life together a little bit, and trust you and they’ll listen to you."