Unite Williamson hosts local religious leaders with messages ‘rooted in love’

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The second annual Unite Williamson Prayer Breakfast hosted hundreds of representatives from churches, synagogues, mosques and temples across Williamson County on Saturday.

A handful of local faith leaders shared their interpretation of what unity and the topic of “rooted in love” look like in the county. 

The event’s goal was also to allow attendees to meet neighbors from other backgrounds and gain insights from shared perspectives. They shared in unified prayer for healing the divides the community and nation face.

Speakers included Franklin Mayor Ken Moore, Dr. Kenneth Hill of Shorter Chapel AME Church, Imam Ahmedulhadi Sharif of the Islamic Center of Williamson County, Rabbi Laurie Rice of Congregation Micah, Pastor Luis Sura of Franklin Community Church, Bishop Todd Callister of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Tom Moore of Saint Philip Catholic Church.

“Unite Williamson’s purpose is to make friends with your neighbors and also to understand your neighbors,” Moore said.

Event co-founders Rev. Hill and Moore started the annual prayer breakfast after the 2015 shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine members were killed. 

The keynote speaker of the event was Rev. Eric S.C. Manning, who serves as the senior pastor of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. 

Manning led his congregation through the aftermath of tragedy. He described the path that led members towards forgiveness.

“Forgiveness is an individual journey,” he said. “We forgive by understanding what someone had to go through. We forgive by understanding the struggles. We forgive by understanding that we’re not in this by ourselves.”

Both Hill and Manning praised the city of Franklin for the placement of five historical markers last week to commemorate the African American experience, known as the “Fuller Story.” The five markers tell the more complete story of the African American experience before, during and after the Civil War.

“Today marks another step towards historical reconciliation and racial healing,” Hill said.

Manning was also pleased the city acknowledged the history. The struggles of slavery, the Civil War and segregation are not topics he felt should be swept under the rug.

“We have to learn how to understand what took place in our history, and then make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again,” he said.

In keeping with the theme of love, Manning shared his thoughts on the topic.

“When you show love to one another, your community begins to change, the world begins to change,” he said. “When your community begins to change, the world begins to change. Our goal is to not allow the atrocities to ever happen again. Hate has no place in this world. Love is stronger than hate.”

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