Shelbyville—In light of recent tension between some communities and first responders, and “to build some relationships in the first responder community, and help the community as a whole get to know its first responders,” Shelbyville’s First Baptist Church hosted a “First Responders Weekend” on Sept. 11-13.
“We wanted to say thank you for all they (first responders) do, but also to get to know them. We wanted to build bridges between the first responder community and the community as a whole,” Pastor Maurice Hollingsworth said.
“If you know people and appreciate them, it’s hard to get mad at them. So we wanted to offer that opportunity,” he added.
“Law enforcement especially is kind of under attack. It’s great to see the community rally, not just behind the law enforcement, but firefighters and EMS, and everybody that works together to keep this community safe,” Trooper Eddie Whitworth, of Kentucky State Police and member of First Baptist, said.
The idea for the weekend came from a similar event where Hollingsworth was pastor in New Mexico. Hollingsworth’s family has a long tradition of roasting an entire pig, which takes around 15 hours. They invited police officers to come eat and fellowship with them by the fire throughout the night as they roasted a pig. The results of that event were that many people came to know Christ, Hollingsworth said.
“Sometimes it’s a little bit hard for a cop to think a pastor can relate to his world, and that’s true,” observed Hollingsworth. “I don’t understand what he has to face, but somehow when we’re all sitting around the fire, in the middle of the night, taking care of a hog at 3 a.m., barriers are kind of broken down.”
One of Hollingsworth’s prayer partners, a retired Secret Service agent for Kentucky, saw the picture of the event in New Mexico and suggested they do the same thing—but for first responders.
The first event of the weekend was the hog roasting. Many first responders came and ate and played corn hole during their breaks throughout the night.
The next afternoon, a community fair was held in the church’s parking lot. First responders sent crews, firetrucks and EMT vans. The fire department even brought a car to demonstrate how the “Jaws of Life” work.
“We had a lot of people here on our parking lot, basically just getting to know these guys who take care of us and protect us all the time,” Hollingsworth said.
That evening, the church hosted a barbecue, where an attorney for the Commonwealth presented an award to one of the law enforcement agents.
On Sunday, the worship service saw more than 600 people in attendance. “We had a time of prayer for the first responders to ask God’s protection over them and blessing over their families and a prayer of gratitude for all that they do for us,” Hollingsworth said.
“It was a tremendously effective way to demonstrate to the community that we care about what happens not just on Sunday morning, but we care about them all week long,” he said. (WR)