Recently, a group of concerned community men, representing various churches, businesses, local government and other organizations came together for the expressed purpose as stated in Proverbs 27:17: “As Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
This theme became the central focus of the gathering, and along with all the activities, the conference attempted to help equip those present with the tools they need “in our daily lives to be the Godly men that God has ordained us to be.” Also, the conference was a coming together to assess the state of black men in Sampson County in order to answer the poignant question asked by Pastor Thomas Farrow, one of the keynote speakers at the conference: “What kind of storm are we in?”
This City-Wide Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Gathering, which occurred on Sat., July 16, 2016, was sponsored by Patrick O. Stewart Ministries, Inc., and was hosted at First Baptist, 900 College St., Clinton. The free event started in the church fellowship hall with registration and breakfast, running from 8 to 9 a.m. Following breakfast, Elder Patrick Stewart, the event organizer, called the gathering to order, giving a brief welcome and overview of the event’s agenda.
To deal with some of the community concerns, such as youth unemployment, community policing, racial profiling and school drop-out prevention, the first part of the conference was an open forum which consisted of Clinton Mayor Lew Starling, Councilman Marcus Becton, City School board member Edward Mason, Clinton Police Chief Jay Tilley and Police Lt. Robert Dalton.
Another important component to the inaugural Iron Sharpens Iron Gathering was the special messages presented by three local pastors: Pastor Gerald Underwood, Andrews Chapel; Pastor Onyx Martin, St. Pauls Church of Christ; and Pastor Thomas Farrow, First Baptist. The common theme that premeated all three “sermons” encouraged those in attendance to stay in the presence and will of God and make a difference in their homes, churches and communities, while admonishing everyone “to keep on speaking truth to power.”
Along with lunch, the City-Wide Iron Sharpens Iron Conference provided special entertainment, highlighted by the local gospel group Michael Boykin & The Mighty Voices and the local spoken word artist, Minister William Rich.
In closing out the conference, Elder Stewart asked for volunteers to share with the gathering their comments on how the day had gone. The general consensus was that the men’s gathering was “a great start to something we need to help and encourage us to make needed changes in our attitude and behavior. Many agreed, “We must make each other better, becoming our brother’s keeper.”
Additionally, Elder Patrick O. Stewart concluded, “We are so happy and grateful that the Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Gathering was a great success. The support we had with men coming from all over Sampson County and with local government officials was truly amazing. On the relevance of the gathering, Elder Stewart remarked, “We conversed on issues that were related to our community and our hearts with great effort and success. A new fellowship was formed by men coming together, discussing topics of today and the future, but it must not stop here, but move forward.