By Amanda Boston

More than a dozen churches from the Tampa Bay area united for an evening of prayer and thanksgiving at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon. In response to the nation’s escalating racial and political divides, the event focused on unifying community and families.

Leading the charge was Rep. Ross Spano from the Florida House of Representatives. He expressed, “I had a growing concern and a feeling that I needed to do something. I began to pray about it and met with friends, community leaders and local pastors who share a heart for that same vision of unity. The November 20 event was the first step of a series of meetings that we hope will take place at quarterly intervals.”

Dr. Stephen Rummage, senior pastor Bell Shoals Baptist Church, and A.D. Shaw, senior pastor Shekinah Glory Cathedral, share in Spano’s enthusiasm and shouldered key leadership roles in preparation for the UNITED event.

Rummage said, “I believe that the church is the beginning place for real unity in our communities. We have been brought together by God’s Son, and we can extend His work of reconciliation and peace to others.

The event gathered a diverse group of people from various denominations, races and political views. The evening dedicated a time of prayer to educators, law enforcement, first responders, military, and leaders of the city, state and nation. Worship teams from the participating churches combined into a mass choir to worship the Lord in song. The church, being the body of Christ, put aside personal differences, displayed love for one another, and acted as an example of unity to the rest of the community.

In March, plans are underway for a community event at a local high school. In Spano’s words, it will be a “Character Pep Rally for Unity” and will feature a celebrity speaker to be named later. As the name implies, the rally will spotlight the role of an individual’s character in unifying the community through current struggles. Students, parents and community members are invited to an encouraging evening jam-packed with entertainment from local high school bands, drama teams and choruses.

In respect to community events, Spano clarified that although he can’t separate who he is as abeliever from who he is as a leader, he is careful not to infringe on the beliefs of others. “I understand there may be some concern that I will use my platform for some religious agenda. But that’s not what this is about,” explained Spano, “I sense an openness in the church particularly to get out of our comfort zone and reach across divides to truly see unity and love one another like Christ.”

If you would like to get involved or be added to the mailing list, please contact the office of Rep. Spano at 744-6256.