Fourth of July celebration draws 1,100
by DAVID DAVIS, Managing Editor
Jul 05, 2013 | 2864 views | 0 0 comments | 191 191 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Extending hands of freedom
Voices of Lee members  J.J. Williamson, of Atlanta, left, and Alyssa Oliver, of Fort Worth, Texas, perform a patriotic medley of songs Thursday morning during the 14th Annual His Hands Extended Freedom Celebration at First Baptist Church. Banner photos, DAVID DAVIS
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The threat of rain was no hindrance to the His Hands Extended Fourth of July Freedom Celebration at First Baptist Church Thursday as more than 1,100 people filled the sanctuary to capacity.

The 90-minute devotional was an expression of patriotism to the United States of America and adoration of God.

Thursday marked the 14th anniversary His Hands Extended and World Wide Prayer Partners founder Max Morris produced the annual event. He announced during the show that he was turning the event over to Voices of Lee Director Danny Murray.

Murray said he did not know for a long time what Max Morris did, but that knowledge unfolded when his family ended up on the World Wide Prayer Partners list and as a result, received thousands of cards, letters and phone calls of support.

“At 5 o’clock in the morning, Max used to walk around our bus and pray for angels to guard the Voices of Lee. That’s the kind of man Max Morris is,” he said. “Then he started His Hands Extended. Every day, he’s in the hospitals. He’s taking care of us. He’s sort of a safety net for me because I know if something goes wrong, I’m calling Max and letting him put [it] on the Web and I know there will be people all over the world praying.”

Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said he knew of no other community, “except ‘The City With Spirit’ that can have an event such as this.”

Rowland said many others around the nation, including politicians in Washington “may acknowledge our nation was founded with God mentioned somewhere, but virtually everybody who signed the Declaration of Independence invoked the name of Jesus Christ and God in all of their writings and deliberations. In spite of what some may say, we are a Christian nation and I just pray we will continue to be.”

He said God shines his light and asked forgiveness for the world trying to extinguish it. He gave thanks for the Founding Fathers who took on the unique experiment called the United States of America, a nation of independence and freedom, and the mayor expressed thanks for blessings bestowed upon Cleveland and Bradley County.

“We thank you for those veterans who are here today who were willing to sacrifice in service to this great country, and for those who made the ultimate sacrifice who are not among us today. We’ll always be thankful to them,” he said.

The mayor expressed thanks for the beauty and potential of the nation.

“Humbly, we accept this great gift you have given us, the United States of America,” he said. “And in Cleveland, Tennessee, we’re not ashamed to come to you and approach you in the name of our savior, Jesus Christ.”

The First Baptist Church choir and orchestra led by music director Tyler Brinson performed a salute to the armed forces. He asked that veterans of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard stand during the medley of songs.

The choir also sang a selection of worship songs.

During an introduction to the Voices of Lee rendition of the U.S. Constitution, Murray said the Declaration of Independence meant freedom, but the Constitution made us a nation instead of separate nations. Delegates to the constitutional convention argued, fussed and fought to the point of disintegration.

“Finally, Benjamin Franklin stood up and said we need help. He was 81 years old, and said, ‘If a sparrow cannot fall without God taking notice, is it possible a nation could rise without his aid?’ He said we need to pray,” Murray said. “They adjourned. They went home and prayed. They came back in the fall and they wrote in one accord.”

The morning featured the Voices of Lee, the First Baptist Choir directed by Tyler Brinson, and First Baptist Orchestra, conducted by Jim Burton. Dr. Andrea Dismukes performed, with crystal clarity, the traditional “Star Spangled Banner” and “The Lord’s Prayer.” Dr. Phillip Thomas performed piano solos. Steve Orders led the Pledge of Allegiance.