Editor's note: This clarification will appear in Wednesday's print edition. U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., and state Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, were absent from the Mayor’s Thanksgiving Service on Nov. 22 but were listed on the program, and a front-page article Sunday reflected that fact. Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas said Tuesday that Carter and Williams were never sent invitations.
Community leaders gathered at the Mayor’s Annual Thanksgiving Service to give thanks for the quality of life in the region, state and nation.
More than 150 people at the 13th annual service, held Nov. 22 at Hinesville First United Methodist Church, took part in prayer and singing, listened to a series of speeches and enjoyed dancing. First UMC Senior Pastor Dale Thornton thanked those who attended.
The service also was a tribute to outgoing Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, who is in his last few weeks in that office because of term limits.
Keynote speaker Aaron Cowart, pastor of Live OakChurch of God, set aside a portion of his remarks to recognize Thomas, noting that this was his last Mayor’s Thanksgiving Service as mayor.
“I want to just take a moment and thank you, sir, for the leadership that you have provided this community over the last eight years,” Cowart said to Thomas.
Nearly everyone in the audience stood and gave Thomas the loudest and longest ovation of the evening when Cowart recognized him.
Cowart continued, “You might not have filled the office of a pastor or an evangelist, but you have certainly filled the office of mayor with dignity, and we thank you tonight for what you have allowed God to do through you in this community over the last eight years.”
Earlier in the service, Richard Hayes, pastor of New Day Community Church, who served as the emcee, introduced the mayor, also noting his time in office was coming to an end.
Thomas then offered thanks for the blessings of the past year, starting with the recent return of 3rd Infantry Division headquarters soldiers, including 3rd ID commander Maj. Gen. James Rainey, from Afghanistan.
“We have almost all of our soldiers home this year for the first time in several years,” the mayor said. “They are an integral part of our community. I want to say on behalf of a grateful community, ‘Thank you for your service to our nation.’ And additionally, I want to extend
that thanks to the families of our soldiers for the sacrifices and steadfast support of their soldiers.”
Thomas also credited the city’s recent success in large part to the military.
“Our city is blessed to have experienced a year in which we have seen a great deal of economic and civic growth,” he said. “Much of this is due to the men and women that serve our nation here and in many places in the world.”
Later, Thomas gave an optimistic assessment of where the nation stands today during remarks for the nation.
“We have, in my opinion, the greatest country on God’s Earth,” Thomas said. “He has blessed us to live here. He has blessed us to raise our families here. This is the reason that we give thanks … This country is the only major country in the world that has come through the last recession still doing well. This country is the only country in the world that everyone reaches out to.”
Rainey was not scheduled to speak, but he substituted for U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., who wasn’t at the program. Rainey acknowledged that he was “nervous talking about my faith” in a room “full of men and women of God,” but then he talked about how he follows the examples of soldiers in the Bible. He pointed out that God told Joshua to be “strong and of courage,” something Rainey said he tries to do.
He noted that David, a great soldier, “struggled, but God never gave up on him.”
“What I learned from that was knowing that God loves soldiers,” Rainey said. “And it’s obvious to me that you all love soldiers, and thank you very much and amen.”
The service included several other speakers, singing groups and a dance performance by Youth 4 Jesus of First Samoan Church of Christ. An offering was collected and donated to the Liberty County Homeless Coalition and the Manna House.