By John Armistead

Daily Journal

Addressing the 130 individuals who gathered Saturday morning at the Tupelo Coliseum for the Mayors' Prayer Breakfast, the Rev. McCoy Franklin said, "It is a shocking thing whenever a church is burned. To think somebody would do this deliberately is more than shocking. But God can use these tragic circumstances, and we pray He will."

The program for the 9th annual Mayors' Prayer Breakfast had been set for several weeks, but the burning of two Alcorn County churches Monday night sounded a somber tone heard throughout the prayers, comments and sermon at the breakfast.

In the opening prayer, the Rev. Gary Long, pastor of Springhill Missionary Baptist Church of Tupelo, prayed, "We thank you for those who are quick to act and show their love and faith in you."

One avenue for helping was an item not on the original program. The morning after Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church and Central Grove Missionary Baptist Church, both of Kossuth, were destroyed by fires which officials described as "extremely suspicious," Franklin, who is pastor of First Presbyterial Church of Tupelo, announced that an offering would be taken at the breakfast to help rebuild these two churches.

"This will be one way we can show our love and support," Franklin commented before the offering was received. "Arsonists may be able to burn buildings, but they can't kill the spirit of the people."

The guest speaker of the breakfast was the Rev. Bryant Barnes, pastor of Tupelo's Calvary Baptist Church. Barnes pointed out that many surveys reveal that there is little difference between the lifestyles of those who claim to have had Christian religious experiences and others who make no such claims.

"There is a great chasm between that which we claim to believe and that which we practice," Barnes said. "We must put character to our faith. ... When people begin to live right and do right, others will become convinced that there is a God in heaven."

Also participating in the program were Boy Scout Troop 77, Larry Montgomery, Mayor Jack Marshall, the Fourgiven Quartet, Larry Newell, and the Rev. Bob O'Neal.

Since January 1996, 40 church fires have been reported in the South, six of them in Mississippi.

Contributions are still being accepted for the Kossuth churches. Checks should be sent to the Greater Tupelo Ministerial Association, P.O. Box 133, Tupelo, 38802.

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