Senior Pastor Steve Smartt said the annual Fourth of July get-together is an expression of how much “we cherish what you have done for us to protect our freedom that we take so often for granted, yet enjoy with great enthusiasm each day.”
Veterans who served in times of peace and of conflict from World War II to Afghanistan enjoyed lunch served by the congregation.
Smartt said Romans 15:13 is the church’s prayer for military service men and women. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Continuing, he said, “Your service has given us hope for today and great hope for tomorrow, and we ask that you be appreciated on a day such as this.”
The guest speaker, Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, spoke for 20 minutes on his two favorite topics: the city of Cleveland and the Christian foundation of the United States of America.
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you the United States of America was not founded on Christian principles,” the mayor said.
John Adams wrote in 1776 that he believed July Fourth would be celebrated by succeeding generations as a great anniversary festival. “It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, shows, games, sports guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward — forever more."
Thomas Jefferson described this event as a new revolution and an one that would provide a new direction for our country. They were the only two signers of the Declaration to become presidents. Both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration. The two died within an hour of one another.
James Monroe was a founding father of the document, but not a signer. He later became president and died on July 4, 1831. In 1872, President Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president, was born on July 4 — the only president to have Independence Day as a birthday, the mayor continued.
He said Adams made it clear that his intent in signing the Declaration of Independence was that the day was to be “commemorated as the day of deliverance” through devotion to God.
Probably the most notable part of the Declaration is the second paragraph: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Rowland said the Declaration of Independence did not come without the sacrifice and hard work of many great men. “They deliberated and debated for days to make certain its wording and meaning assured us of the many freedoms we have today for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Through the years, the freedoms we enjoy today were thanks to the veterans who have served in the various wars — and some of them are right here with us today in this room. We have a responsibility here on the home front to assure our freedoms remain.
“Thank you Westwood Baptist Church for pausing to focus on this special tribute to our veterans. Our freedom is not free. It came at a price. But, we have assurance that in him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. God bless each of you — and may God continue to bless these United States of America.”
On the topic of his favorite city, the mayor said Cleveland is a shining star in the United States. There is no better example of our community's patriotism than each year on the Fourth of July.
Cleveland is the fifth-largest industrial community in the Tennessee and when other cities across the country were greatly affected by the recent recessions, our community stayed strong, thanks to our people and our industrial base, Rowland asserted. Of the 100 industries locally, more than a dozen are Fortune 500 companies, he said.
In 2012, Cleveland ranked fourth among all metropolitan statistical areas in the United States for job creation by newgeography.com. In addition, the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations has noted Cleveland's metro area is ahead of all areas in Tennessee, relative to job and economic growth.
“Cleveland is one of a kind — truly one of America's greatest cities,” he said. “Another thing I feel puts us above the rest is the way we celebrate Independence Day. John Adams said it should be a day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. And that's just what we do here in Cleveland.
“We accompany this day with a huge fireworks display somewhere in the area and it brings spectators from miles away to see the skies light up with the red, white and blue fireworks. This event here today is a good example of what kind of community we have.”
Other speakers were Jim Caywood, pastor of Pastoral Care, who recognized veterans according to their branch of service.
State Sen. Mike Bell led the Pledge of Allegiance and State Rep. Kevin Brooks offered the invocation.
Trevor Suits was the musician and Executive Pastor Paul Davis introduced guest speaker Rowland.