Few open seats were available Sunday for the 2012 Mayor’s Thanksgiving Service at the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church of God in Christ on Veterans Parkway. This year’s service, themed “Bountiful Blessings,” marked the annual event’s 10th anniversary.
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas acted as the master of ceremonies for the event, which brought together community members of various faiths from churches around the area. The Christian service focused on giving thanks to God and featured several speakers such as Liberty County Commission Chairman-elect David Lovette and state Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway. Attendees were treated to an elaborate program of gratitude expressed in song, dance, Scripture and prayer.
United Ministerial Alliance President Pastor Richard Hayes of New Day Outreach Ministries kicked off the service with an invocation and brought the cheering crowd to its feet with a simple instruction: “If you love the Lord, make some noise!”
“It’s a great time for the community to come together. God has graced us to be here. We are more than a church — we’re family,” Full Gospel Tabernacle COGIC Pastor A.D. Shaw said during his welcome speech.
Feet of Glory, Feet of Clay Dance Troupe from Connection Church performed a spirited praise dance that featured male and female dancers from youth to adult. They wore black shirts, fatigue pants and combat boots in tribute to the area’s service members.
The remainder of the evening was divided into four parts: words for the community, the military, the nation and Thanksgiving. Each segment included a prayer, a Scripture passage, an inspirational speaker and a song. Musical selections were performed by the Liberty County Area Mass Choir, the Fort Stewart Multicultural Choir and the Full Gospel Tabernacle COGIC.
Thomas offered words for the community, noting that there were so many reasons to be thankful this year that he hardly knew where to begin. The city is coming out of a recession, according to the mayor, who said he is most thankful that the community was not as deeply affected by the volatile economy as other struggling communities. In fact, Hinesville is growing.
Thomas said he was proud of the community, the country, the people and their unfailing generosity to others even during tough times.
“We live in one of the best communities in the best state in the best nation in the world. God has truly blessed us,” he said before imploring the audience to be thankful for these blessings.
Chaplain Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson, the 3rd Infantry Division chaplain-rear, opened the military segment of the program by offering an uplifting prayer in song to all the military men and women serving around the world. Third ID Spc. Taique Savoy read Ephesians 6:10-17 before an offering was collected.
This year, the offering will benefit the Liberty County Manna House, which provides meals to the homeless and residents in need. Pastor Douglas Harn of Victory Assembly of God asked attendees if they had ever truly been hungry — not just the sensation of hunger, but the aching pain of hunger that stems from not having enough to eat. He urged the group to give what they could to assist the Manna House in its mission.
In the words for the nation segment, Higher Dimension Christian Fellowship Pastor Julian Jones again brought the crowd to its feet with an inspirational prayer. Pastor Ashley Morris followed Jones, scarcely giving the audience members a chance to sit before she had them dancing in the pews as she sang a prayer with musical accompaniment and read from Amos 9:9-15.
Williams focused on the might of the nation and the great potential people have when they put petty differences aside and work together for the common good. Afterward, the attendees joined in a rendition of “God Bless America.”
The program concluded with words of thanksgiving and a prayer in Spanish given by Lighthouse Hispanic Church Pastor Miguel Rivera and a reading from Psalms 100 by First Korean Community Presbyterian Community Church Pastor Cheol Kim.
Temple of Praise Church Ministries Pastor Kevin Betton also offered inspirational words of thanksgiving by speaking of the Apostle Paul, who was thankful to God in the midst of a storm. Betton reminded attendees that the time to praise God in prayer is before the storm passes, not after.
“A bad storm is a good opportunity to watch God work. Sometimes God will bring a storm just to bring us together,” he said.
First Cavalry Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Sinclair Thomas gave the benediction, and the crowd was invited to enjoy refreshments. Thomas greeted attendees as they passed through the food line and thanked them for coming.