For some, 2017 got off to a beautiful start with one of the community’s largest spiritual gatherings - the Liberty County Emancipation Proclamation Observance Day program.
The event, normally held on Jan. 1, was held Jan. 2 because New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday. The change in day did not diminish the crowd which normally assembles for this occasion.
St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church in Hinesville was the host church for this year’s program. The Rev. Dr. Alvin Jackson is the pastor and served as the program’s worship leader. His inspirational choir and musicians rendered the song service.
"We shouldn’t be ashamed to celebrate our history," said the Rev. Dr. Hermon Scott, who serves as president of the Liberty County Emancipation Proclamation Observance Day Committee. He is also pastor of Baconton Missionary Baptist Church and the moderator of the Zion Missionary Baptist Association.
"It’s always a blessing to see Mother Ollie Howard. She is going to give God
praise if no one else does," Scott said, referring to the Rev. "Mother" Ollie Howard, 95, a faithful Emancipation Proclamation Observance Day attendee.
The theme of the 2017 Emancipation service was "with Liberty and Justice for All."
"Our theme this year highlights the true meaning of the American Dream," Scott said. "These words have been immortalized in our pledge of allegiance and speaks of the ideals of American society. In 1776 the founding fathers had a dream that this new country would be a land of freedom for all people. It was not long before Sojourner Truth and others raised the question, ‘ain’t we people too?’"
It is questions like this that caused America to take a fresh look at the dichotomy of what was written and what was practiced, he said.
"These kinds of questions led to the Civil War and that historic document we celebrate today. Can you imagine how our forefathers must have felt as the clock rang in Jan. 1, 1863? In the midst of the shouting, perhaps someone recalled the scripture verse that Jesus came to earth so that all people could live and experience life more abundantly," Scott said.
The Rev. Anthony Q. Corbett Sr., pastor of Lundy Chapel Missionary Baptist Church of Macon was speaker. Corbett also serves as state moderator and ministers coordinator for the General Missionary Baptist Convention, which is comprised of more than 850 churches throughout Georgia, with more than 500,000 members.
The Rev. Corbett captivated the audience by singing an old familiar hymn, "I Need Thee Every Hour."
He went on to deliver a power packed sermon taken from Daniel 3:16-25. His subject was "A faith that’s greater than the fire."
Corbett gave a reflection of history from a biblical perspective and reminded the audience of a few things.
"We are still in the furnace, but a fourth man is with us, and that man is the Son of God. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were in the fire, their enemy thought they would die, but they did not. However, the men who bound them and cast them in the furnace, who were the most mighty men, died at the door," Corbett said. "Instead of the three men who were cast in the fire being burned to a crisp, when King Nebuchadnezzar arrived at the furnace, he saw four men loose and walking in the midst of the fire; the fourth one was the Son of God."
"We must not forget the struggle and the fight endured by our ancestors for us to have the privilege to a better way of life. Something good can come from the fire. In the furnace, the impurities are removed," Corbett said. "God has been faithful to us. We should thank God for the fire. Good things happen in the fire. Because of the fire, we are formed into something far greater than what the enemy can destroy. With faith and courage we can endure adversity, just as our ancestors," he said.
The Emancipation Proclamation Observance Day program booklet was dedicated in honor of the late Henry Relaford of Riceboro, a World War II veteran, who was a faithful and active member of the community.
Four citizens of Liberty County were recognized for their exemplary service to the community.
Karen Jones Jemison, St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Yolanda Evette Walton-Mothershed, Baconton Missionary Baptist Church, received the Emancipation’s Willie J. McIver Humanitarian Awards.
Allexis Tereza Roberts, First Zion Missionary Baptist Church, a gifted 10th grader, received the Youth Award.
The Rev. Edith W. Anderson, pastor of Mary Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Gardi and a member of Good Shepherd Missionary Baptist Church, was the recipient of the President’s Award.
Mikia Frazier, a native of Riceboro and a current honors student at Spelman College in Atlanta, read the Emancipation Proclamation.
She is also a 2015 Liberty County Emancipation Proclamation scholarship recipient.
Scott thanked the churches for their enrollment in the Emancipation Proclamation.
"Because of your enrollment and your donations today, we are able to help graduating high school seniors with scholarships. Rev. Ollie Howard gave $50 from her fixed income to assist with the scholarship fund. It was people like Mother Howard who gave small donations that helped support colleges like Spelman, Morehouse, and Morris Brown," Scott said.