Unemployment, poverty, crime and education challenges here were among topics mentioned at a National Day of Prayer ministers’ luncheon Tuesday at the Pine Bluff Convention Center, but Mayor Debe Hollingsworth said the gathering represented “nothing but good news.”
“I think this is an amazing event,” said the mayor, who pledged in her election campaign to formulate a church outreach committee charged with forging a faith-based unification effort through community outreach.
“I think it’s great news for Pine Bluff that this program is up and going and will grow and become stronger as time goes by. You can’t tell me that God’s hand isn’t in this. God’s hand and God’s people have to be at the center of this endeavor for it to be working.”
About 100 people attended the luncheon, including ministers of various denominations. The audience was racially mixed.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white or Hispanic, male or female,” said Hollingsworth. “What matters is that we know what type of community we want and we’re working together to help make that happen. This event says a lot about the character of this city. I don’t know of another city in Arkansas that is putting on anything like this prayer luncheon today.”
The mayor said the affiliated ministers and churches realize, along with her, what a strong effect a faith-based partnership can have on all aspects of the city.
“I think of it as activity versus impact,” she said. “Can you imagine the impact on our city if our faith-based community steps forward and does what we’re supposed to do?”
The mayor’s remarks were repeatedly interrupted with applause, as were prayers offered by several pastors. Jesse Turner led a prayer on government. David Fleming prayed for the faith-based community, Kerry Price on business and industry, Pam Estes on education and Henry Hellums on community.
Hollingsworth told attendees she’s not and will never be a politician, because “Politicians sometime make decisions based on their own political futures.” She pledged to always focus her interest on the community, and said she hopes to most be able to accomplish good for the city’s youth.
She praised local ministers for their involvement in the local SAFE team and TAGG (Targeted Areas Going Green) neighborhood programs, which she credited with already helping to reduce crime.
“That’s an example of how we can accomplish so much more together than divided,” she said. “Together, we can create a healthy community that will attract industry and allow our economy to grow.
“We can’t allow naysayers to tell us what we can’t do,” she continued. “We have to change their negative attitudes and show them all the positive things we can do together.”