In its second year, the Unite Williamson Prayer Breakfast is already coming full circle, featuring Rev. Eric Sheldon Charles Manning of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina as the keynote speaker.
The inter-faith prayer breakfast was founded by Franklin Mayor Ken Moore alongside Rev. Kenneth Hill of Shorter Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Franklin, who held a vigil held following the Emanuel AME Church shooting in June of 2015.
“Through that prayer vigil that I was invited to as mayor, we carried on a conversation about how our community might respond if there was such an event,” he said. “That (Charleston) community immediately forgave the shooter. So, he and I envisioned that a prayer event in our community would be something that was good.”
He said, through a conversation with another pastor, he decided to include all different faiths in the community. This year, along with Moore, Hill and Manning, the event will feature Bishop Todd Callister from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Pastor Luis Sura from Franklin Community Church, Rabbi Laurie Rice from Congregation Micah, Tom Moore from Saint Philip Catholic Church, Imam Ahmedulhadi Sharif from the Islamic Center of Williamson County.
“Last year, it was this really moving, really beautiful event of unity and neighborly, community feeling,” Rice said. “It was just very positive and uplifting. It had all the religious groups, demographics represented.”
This neighborly feeling is what Moore said he wanted to capture again this year.
“We’re trying to reach all of our community,” Moore said. “We may all have different faith beliefs, but we’re all neighbors, and we all have to work together to make our community better.”
He said different faiths share a common history, and he witnessed at last year’s event the love and respect between different faith leaders, which is something he hopes this event will continue to foster. Manning also echoed this goal.
“It’s important to have this discussion, and we find it in the very beginning: Genesis chapters 1 and 2, ‘So God created man in his own image,’” Manning said. “When you understand that, you begin to meet people where they are — not just tolerance, but getting to know your neighbor and what part each of us plays in this vast universe. We’re all made in the image of God, and we need to focus less on what divides us and more on what unites us.”
Moore said the community involved in the breakfast is more than just a group of people putting on an event, and they are still feeling out their role and identity as a group.
“I think there’s some huge opportunity, if we had an adverse event in our community, for us to reach into the faith community for help. We don’t really truly understand what kind of resources we have here,” he said. “We’re more than just a one-and-done event every year. I think all the members of the committee view us as a much larger organization, and we’re trying to figure out what that future may be.”
This year’s Unite Williamson Prayer Breakfast will focus on the theme “Rooted in Love” at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19 at Eastern Flank Battlefield Park. Tickets can be purchased for $5 at unitewilliamson.com.