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Celebrating faith's role in black history
Educators and politicians join in honoring local pastors at black history event in Spotsylvania

 Retired pastor Louis T. Jackson (center) acknowledges the congregation's applause after speaking at the fifth annual Women's Black History Commemorative Service at Second New Hope Baptist Church in Spotsylvania.
ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 2/11/2013

BY PAMELA GOULD

THE FREE LANCE-STAR

Sen. Mark Warner recounted milestones of black history in Virginia on Sunday before congratulating six local ministers on their decades of service in Spotsylvania County.

He noted that this year marks the 50th anniversary of desegregation of Spotsylvania County schools, that Virginia elected the nation's first African-American governor, and singled out former Fredericksburg Mayor Lawrence Davies as having a trailblazing legacy.

Warner noted that Davies, who retired last year after five decades as pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site), was the city's first black mayor when he was elected 35 years ago. But Warner said his impact extends beyond the state.

"There would be no Barack Obama if there had not been a Lawrence Davies," Warner declared.

Warner, a Democrat, then announced the day's honorees during the fifth annual Women's Black History Commemorative Service at Second New Hope Baptist Church.

Warner, like other speakers from the political and education arenas, noted the significance of black churches to their communities, especially when times were tough.

Six men were lauded on Sunday, including retired ministers Louis T. Jackson and Morris J. Walker, who had overseen First New Hope Baptist and Piney Branch Baptist, respectively.

Four current ministers were recognized for more than two decades of service each, including: Raymond Bell, pastor of Mount Hope Baptist; Charles Hilliard, pastor of Second New Hope Baptist; Dennis Woodard, pastor of Sylvannah Baptist; and Charles Wormley, pastor of Mount Zion Baptist.

Sunday's program included several songs by the Men of Zion choir, including "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," two faith-based numbers by Chancellor High School's choir, and dance by the Restoration Community Dance Ministry.

Paul Trampe, chairman of the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors, presented the pastors with certificates on behalf of the board.

Malvina Kay, vice chairwoman of the Fredericksburg School Board, spoke briefly, as did Amanda Blalock, chairwoman of the Spotsylvania School Board.

Blalock and Spotsylvania Superintendent Scott Baker said they see the schools and churches working in tandem to raise today's youth.

"I believe that what we do is truly a partnership," Baker said. "We are together trying to raise up the young people, to educate them, to support them, to lead them to a bright, prosperous future."

Baker said he had served as a youth pastor, and he quoted from the Gospel of John about the importance of abiding in Christ.

"I am the vine, you are the branches," he recited, quoting Jesus Christ.

The key to that passage, he said he had stressed to youth, is where Jesus proclaimed: "apart from Me, you can do nothing."

Baker said he recognizes that in his professional life and said the tenure of the pastors being honored on Sunday was a testament to their understanding of it as well.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972
Email: pgould@freelancestar.com