“The Church is failing our young people. The church is failing our poor,” said Pastor Will Francis, a guest speaker at Saturday’s “Healing our Community” roundtable event for local ministers, faith leaders, educators, elected officials and public servants.

Francis, who leads an “integrated-care” ministry in Atlanta called The HUB Community Church and Development Corporation, challenged churches and faith leaders to reimagine how they care for their communities, especially among the most vulnerable and hurting.

“We need to be reaching the lost, last, least, leftover, left out and left behind,” said Francis.

Francis led the group in strategizing ways to connect to people in need with resources and services that already exist to address people’s immediate physical needs first before trying to address their spiritual needs. Francis said the Christians needs to venture out beyond the four walls of the church and educate themselves on addressing social ills and build relationships and connections with

“We save lives, and then save souls,” said Francis.

The event was the brainchild of Pastor Carrie Peters-Reid, who leads Spread Love Ministries in Madison, and Sande Bailey, director of Foundations for Living in Jefferson.

The pair teamed up to host the roundtable for community leaders and a free concert service that followed for the public at the First United Methodist Church of Madison.

Reid and Bailey are determined to “stop the stigma” surrounding taboo issues such as domestic violence, mental health, COVID-19, HIV-AIDS, and homelessness, in order to truly help those affected by such difficult situations.

“Saturday was amazing. It was exceptional,” said Reid. “Saul was on the road to Damascus when his eyes were opened and the scales began to fall off. I hope and pray that the city and county, our leaders and residents, can see the need for help with mental health, domestic violence, drug addiction and career development.”

Reid believes the churches can partner with our schools, local government, and local health facilities to better connect hurting people with the resources they need.

“We are ‘One Morgan,’ but we have to begin to meet the needs of everyone in our community. Spread Love Ministries isn’t just here for hugs and kisses. Our main focus is to meet the needs of everyone in our community. We are not here to ruffle feathers but to heal the hearts of our community.”

Bailey believes the roundtable and concert was a crucial first-step in revolutionizing how faith leaders minister to those in need.

“The Town Hall fulfilled its purpose of allowing the community stakeholders to identify their own health disparities within the community,” said Bailey. According to Bailey, the most important disparity identified was mental health services, then domestic violence, then career development and then substance abuse.

“This event allowed groundbreaking dialogue to be had with faith leaders, city officials, educators, volunteers, healthcare providers and mental health providers. It was an opportunity to network with different community-based organizations, which was a goal for that day as well. Foundations For Living and Spread Love Ministries wanted to provide a safe place for community influencers to express their needs and concerns as it pertains to the overall health of the outstanding people of Morgan County.”

According to Bailey, this effort is “just the beginning.” The goal is to form a “blueprint” for developing a plan of healing for the local community, primarily addressing health disparities in the rural South.

“Foundations For Living and Spread Love Ministries will be returning to the First Methodist Church in 60 days to continue the conversation on community health disparities, but focusing on mental health and how the city can start assembling a network for people that are in need of these services.”

In the evening, the public was invited to a special concert worship service in which survivors of AIDS/HIV, domestic violence and mental health issues shared their stories in between songs, prayers, and exhortations.

“The concert was more than I could have imagined...it was encouraging, informing and inspiring. This concert was like no other concert because it had informing information to add to the missions of health disparities. Studies show that faith is an added component to the healing regiment of people that uses religion as part of their daily lives.”

The concert included survivor stories from Nicole Odum, Shane Sims, the Rev. Monica Williams, and Jarvis Jordan. Worship music performed by Minister Shantisa Burgress, Jamee Lewis, the Rev. Williams, Kimberly Ivey.

“I just want to thank everyone who was there Saturday,” said Reid. “Foundations for Living, the teachers, the pastors, law-enforcement, city, county and community leaders. Thank you for being a part of this.”

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