Scriptures from Ecclesiastes and the Gospel of Luke, which deal with the importance of working together and forgiveness, were at the heart of the Rev. Eric S.C. Manning's speech at the Third Annual Hearts United Gathering in Rome on Thursday night. More than 600 turned out to hear him speak.
Manning has been pastor of the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, since June of 2016, a year after nine people were gunned down in 2015 by Dylann Roof during a Bible study at the historic African- American church.
Quoting verses from Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12, (the Bible story of the cord of three strands), "We should be able to work together regardless of our political affiliation, regardless of our ethnicity, regardless of our gender, regardless of our economic status, to tear down the barriers that have been falsely erected to try to keep us apart," Manning said.
Citing verses from Luke 23:33-34, where Jesus was nailed to a cross, Manning said the scene at Golgotha was "the epitome" of forgiveness. "I think realistically when you begin to peel back the layers of forgiveness, it's challenging and a lot of time it's easier said than done, and at times it becomes uncomfortable," Manning said.
Manning saluted the efforts of the One Community United group which was formed three years ago to promote discussion and cooperation among people of all ethnic groups. He said the leaders of the One Community United effort are definitely on the right page.
"The only struggle would be becoming weary, so I would encourage them to not grow weary but continue to work together," Manning said. "Real change takes time."
Manning spent the whole day in Rome, speaking with clergy leaders at Lovejoy Baptist Church in South Rome earlier prior to the event downtown.
Manning said he hopes the work that is taking place in Rome would serve to help other communities seek to achieve the same thing.
The state is seeking the death penalty in the retrial of a man whose 1987 murder conviction was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016.
Preliminary hearings began Thursday in the trial of 50-year-old Timothy Tyrone Foster, who entered a not guilty plea to charges of murder and burglary. A date in mid-June has been set as the deadline for both sides to file motions in Floyd County Superior Court. Additional hearings could be held before that time.
Foster was sentenced to death for the murder of retired school teacher Queen Madge White during a 1986 burglary at her home at Highland Circle — he was 18 at the time.
The 79-year-old White was first found by her sister the morning after the incident. She had a broken jaw and a gash on top of her head, and had been molested before being strangled to death.
In May 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Foster's conviction on the grounds of black jurors being excluded from his original trial. Thendistrict attorney Steve Lanier struck off all four black jurors before the trial. By filing an open records request for the prosecutors' trial notes, Foster's lawyers had discovered the exclusion.
"The focus on race in the prosecution's file plainly demonstrates a concerted effort to keep black prospective jurors off the jury," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.
The Georgia Supreme Court had backed a 1987 ruling in Floyd County Superior Court that found Lanier had raceneutral reasons for striking the jurors.
This exclusion offered Foster a path for an appeal, despite him confessing to the crime when police found stolen items from White's house at his own residence.
On Thursday, Judge Billy Sparks read over the unified appeal, hitting each point on a checklist. The defense, led by Christian Lamar of the Georgia Public Defender Council, left its options open for challenges.
Sparks reminded lawyers that even with the re-arraignment of Foster, the case does not begin anew. With both sides still in the discovery stage, Sparks said, "I do realize this is a 30-yearold case and no one has been on this case," as they answered his questions.
Foster is currently being held without bond in Floyd County Jail, which he was moved to from the state's death row in Jackson in March 2017.
The Northwest Georgia Housing Authority offices were evacuated Thursday afternoon when a white powdery substance was found underneath the desk in Executive Director Sandra Hudson's office.
A Gordon County hazardous materials response unit responded to 326 W. Ninth St., where Heath Derryberry used a portable IR spectrometer kit to analyze the substance and was able to determine that it was not hazardous.
"That's what we wanted to hear," said Rome-Floyd County Emergency Management Agency Director Tim Herrington.
Rome police initially responded to the call regarding the discovery of the white powder at 10:52 a.m. Thursday and took a report.
Fire department and other emergency personnel were dispatched to the offices at 12:31 p.m. when Herrington said the building evacuation was ordered.
" We always have to play by the rules with these situations, just in case," said Rome-Floyd County Fire Chief Troy Brock of the evacuation order.
Derryberry said the silica powder is used in a variety of applications, but had no thoughts at all about how it got there.
"I just ran the tests and determined what the chemical breakdown was," Derryberry said.
"Nobody in our office has any idea how it got there," Hudson said.
Rome architect Mark Coch ran has an itch. Some people refer to it as happy feet, others might call it wander lust. In the construction world, it's simply referred to as flipping.
Simply put, Cochran loves a challenge.
Cochran has a big "for sale" sign on his building at 202 Broad St.
"Wherever Rome goes next we want to be there first," Cochran said. "We have a general idea of where that might happen, so we're willing to sell our building to be the first to go there. We want to help set the stage for whatever happens next."
"Fifth Avenue really has the potential to be something fantastic," Cochran said. "We're thinking about something over there and exploring other options, too."
Moving is nothing new for Cochran.
His Cevian Design Lab started out in the Dempsey Lord Smith building on North Broad Street, moved to the old Sterchi's building in the 400 block of Broad Street, then up to East Second Street on Clock Tower Hill, then down to 208 Broad St., and most recently to his current location.
"We would like to stay on Broad Street and we're exploring a couple of options on Broad Street. We enjoy getting an old building, do what we want to with it and we turn around and flip and away we go." Cochran said. "Broad Street is doing well right now, so flipping is not a bad thing to do. Rome has something better and we have something to show off in our portfolio."
Cochran did make it very clear that Matt Robbins' Frios ice cream shop on the ground floor of his building on Broad Street is not going anywhere.
"They are open and doing tons of business," Cochran said.
Cochran anticipated the sale of the building at some point, so he included a shower on the second floor where his design studio is located, with the idea that the second floor could pretty easily be converted into a loft apartment if someone wanted to do that.
Cochran has undertaken similar activity with his own housing arrangements. He built a LEEDS certified green home in a subdivision in Armuchee, and has just completed and moved into a Between the Rivers home downtown after a massive rehabilitation project. He essentially stripped the shell of the home down to old studs and did a complete rebuild.
"This is the final house though," Cochran said.
Today's artwork is by Lorianna Vaughn, a fourth-grader at Pepperell Elementary School.