By Michael V. Hannigan
ATHENS – The biggest event in Henderson County this Christmas might be the one nobody expected.
Christians of all denominations are being invited to the Courthouse Square in Athens this Saturday, Dec. 17, to “come together in love, to unite and show the world the true spirit of Christ and Christmas.”
The rally will run from noon-1 p.m. and will include Christmas carols, prayers, a few short speeches by area pastors, and patriotic songs.
There will also be a food drive to try and stock up the shelves of county food pantries before Christmas. Cans and other non-perishable food will be collected at the square.
The event, called the “Henderson County Nativity Rally,” came together after an out-of-state group demanded the county remove the nativity scene located on the courthouse lawn last week. The reaction that followed – including local government officials declining to remove the scene – has generated national media attention.
In the end, though, the rally has grown to be more than about a nativity scene.
“This is not about defending a symbol of our faith, this is about defending our faith,” said pastor Dr. Nathan Lorick of FBC Malakoff. “The reason is to unite believers for a spiritual awakening and rally.”
Lorick is one of the rally organizers, along with Robert Welch of Rock Hill Baptist in Brownsboro, Eric Graham of Sand Springs Baptist Church in Athens and Derek Rogers, a county resident who pastors a church in Corsicana.
Lorick said the reason for the rally is “to proclaim the word of God in a way that’s not seen in our nation. For some reason, that’s no longer OK.”
The pastors also want their fellow Christians to realize that there is a lot of pain in the county – poverty, drug abuse, domestic abuse – and that it cannot be ignored.
“We must back our faith up with action and service,” Lorick said.
But always, the pastors came back to taking a stand correctly.
“There is a whole lot of rhetoric out there,” said Lorick. “The point is getting across, but maybe not getting across with the light of Christ. We want to be loving and merciful, but bold in our faith.”
Welch added, “Though we are passionate, we are people of love and peace.”
In the end, the pastors are hoping this is the start of something bigger than a set of nativity figurines.
“We are always talking about revival,” said Lorick. “Why not here and why not now?”