United under the theme “One voice, one community,” the 12th annual Mayor’s Service of Songs, Prayer and Thanksgiving took place Nov. 23 at the Fort Stewart Main Post Chapel.
The community Thanksgiving service was designed to raise awareness for the homeless, show appreciation for those who serve in the military and offer words of encouragement.
Elected officials, pastors, members of the military and community were in attendance. Youth groups from Cathedral of Praise Church Ministries and Live Oak Church performed dances, with musical selections throughout the program from Full Gospel Tabernacle COGIC Praise Team, Fort Stewart Multi-Cultural Choir and the Life United Pentecostal Church Praise Team.
United Ministerial Alliance President Richard Hayes, also pastor of New Day Community Church, served as the master of ceremonies.
The main speakers for the event included: Bishop Kevin L Betton Sr.; Mayor James Thomas Jr.; Pastor Douglas Harn; Connie Thrift, vice chairwoman for the Liberty County Board of Commissioners; Chaplain Phillip Smiley; Spc. Ruben Vega; Col. Thomas Gukeisen; Pastor Katrina Deason; Pastor Dale Thornton; Pastor Isaac Moon; state Rep. Al Williams; Pastor Tommy Crutchfield; Dana Frasier; and Pastor Alvin Jackson.
The service was divided into four parts: words for the community, words for the military, words for the nation and words of thanksgiving. Each section of the program had a prayer, Scripture, speaker and either a dance or choir selection.
Thomas welcomed everyone to the event.
“We are here today to give thanks for all our bountiful blessings. We are growing at a rate that is well above others. We have recovered from a recession that crippled a lot of other states and have a business community that is steadily growing,” he said. “As we enter this holiday season, let us be thankful that we live in a country that merges us and provides the opportunities that we need to have a good life.
“I want to personally thank each and every one of you, in making our city a place where you want to stay for a day or for life. For a long time, Hinesville was looked at as a part of Fort Stewart. Today, Hinesville has come into its own. It’s one of the most thriving, progressive cities in the state of Georgia.”
Gukeisen, commander of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, received a round of applause as he was led on stage. He shared some of his military experience.
“I want to thank you all for the support you provide for soldiers and their families. As we celebrate this holiday season, let’s remember all the service men and women and give thanks for their continued dedication. These soldiers represent the next chapter in our history. Let’s take a moment to pause for those sacrificing their lives,” he said. “I’ve been in the military for 20 years, and six of those have been in countries so people can do this for every color, creed, religion — all coming together singing in one voice. I’ve witnessed mass atrocities. I’ve witnessed people being killed for doing this, so I’m very thankful.”
The evening’s offering was donated to the Liberty County Homeless Coalition and Manna House. The coalition works with other local public-service agencies to provide assistance to those in need. Manna House is a local food pantry.
Another highlight of the service was “America, the Beautiful,” which allowed everyone a chance to sing along. The song was led by Monica Munden of Life United Pentecostal Church choir, accompanied by her brother, Richard Hayes.
Bishop M.L. Jackson of Mt. Zion Baptist Church spoke about unity.
“The theme of this Thanksgiving service speaks volumes — ‘One Community, One Voice.’ This presents a unique challenge to begin with. Unity is often an intangible concept. What would we not be able to do? What obstacles would we not be able to overcome if we come together? We could literally change the face of our community,” Jackson said.
A reception followed the event.
For Laura Washington, retired from the military, it was her first time at the Thanksgiving service.
“I go to the multicultural service here (at the Fort Stewart chapel) and we had our service earlier. We heard about it, so I decided to stay,” she said. “I enjoyed it. I thought it was pretty good. It was a variety of different people together. They talked about some great stuff, and they definitely didn’t leave out the soldiers. I liked that our representatives came out.”
Her friend, Dernetta Holmes, who is active-duty, felt the same way.
“Overall, I thought it was cultural and diverse,” Holmes said. “I enjoyed how the different churches came together with singing and dancing, and the pastors speak-
ing on thanksgiving and car-
ing for the community.”
Williams shared his thoughts on the service.
“It was beautiful. The service was like America, and it sounded like America,” he said. “It sounded like a unified community, and that’s what Thanksgiving is all about — being unified and coming together.”