The six football teams in Newton and Rockdale counties may be rivals on the field, but the teams recently bonded together under one roof at a Rise Unity Dinner hosted by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).
The unity dinner was the first of its kind in the Newton and Rockdale area but certainly not the last. FCA Area Director Arthur Hawkins says the vision for the dinner was a new concept.
“It started based on a spiritual guidance from God to me,” Hawkins said. “I didn’t have the funds to do it, but thanks to several donors that we have in the area, like Newton Federal, John Miles, Consolidated Copiers, we were able to get three-quarters of the money for the banquet, and I was able to figure out the rest.”
About 350 players and coaches from Newton, Alcovy, Eastside, Salem, Heritage and Rockdale met for the banquet at Springfield Baptist Church on Saturday, July 30.
“All of the coaches and children seemed to enjoy it,” Hawkins said. “We had all six teams in one building, and we didn’t have any problems. Everybody was excited, and they participated together.”
FCA was started more than 60 years ago in 1954 by Don McClanen. Headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, the organization is considered one of the largest sports ministries in the country. According to the organization’s website, its mission is “to see the world impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.”
“That’s just what we do,” Hawkins said. “We go out on the fields, courts and gymnasiums, and we share the gospel with young men and women before and after school.”
The organization is also built on four key values, all of which coincide with a bible verse:
- Integrity: We will demonstrate Christ-like wholeness, privately, and publicly. (Proverbs 11:3)
- Serving: We will model Jesus’ example of serving. (John 13:1-17)
- Teamwork: We will express our unity in Christ in all our relationships. (Philippians 2:1-4)
- Excellence: We will honor and glorify God in all we do. (Colossians 3:23-24)
Hawkins brought FCA to the Newton and Rockdale area in 2012 before leaving for Texas to take a principal job. While he was gone, the organization went on a short hiatus, but Hawkins revamped it upon his return to the area.
“I came back and started working … part time,” he said. “I’ve been at it three years, and I’m getting ready to go into my fourth year now. We’re picking up momentum right now.”
Every year, the local FCA partners with other chapters to host a Breakfast Bowl in downtown Atlanta. Sponsored by Chick Fil A, the bowl features FCA teams from across the country, as well as the two college football teams that will compete in that year’s national championship game. The FCA leaders share their vision with more than 3,000 people at this event every year.
Hawkins and the rest of his volunteers will continue hosting unity dinners for local athletes, including one in the fall for the basketball and soccer players at the start of their seasons.
“I believe that we set something into motion that’s going to keep the wheels turning for the next several years,” he said.