TAMPA, Fla. — From racial tensions brought on by conflicts in Charlottesville to NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, the issues that deeply divide this country are what united hundreds of people at a church in New Tampa on Sunday.
“You have people from all walks of life: white, black, Hispanic, Republican, Democrat, Independent, and different dominations coming together," said Pastor Andre Shaw of Shekinah Glory Cathedral.
Shaw was one of a dozen pastors from different area churches, representing different denominations, at LifePoint Church for a so-called unity service.
"The issue of taking a knee, we’re going to deal with that," Shaw said. "We’re going to address why these gentlemen feel that it’s necessary to protest. They’re not protesting the flag.”
Charlottesville, white supremacy, and police relations were also on Sunday night's agenda. Tough issues on any given day outside of church walls, but inside represents common ground to start, said Republican Rep. Ross Spano.
Spano said the idea came from his own realization to reach out to people who—while different politically, racially, or economically—at least shared in the same faith,
"You know what, somebody’s got to do something about it, take a stand," he said. "I knew some pastors in the African American community and I felt like, ‘Hey, if we can’t get together and demonstrate unity, then how are we going to expect the community at large to do that?’”
Success, they made clear, doesn't necessarily mean finding a solution, at least not by the time the service ends.
But simply speaking to one another is a good place to start.
"We may not agree on everything, but we’re certainly not going to agree on anything unless we start talking," Spano said.
Sunday night marked the third so-called unity service that’s been held within the past year, Spano said.
For those who are not religious, Spano said the group is planning other ways to get people together, like a community-wide picnic next spring at Rowlett Park in Tampa.
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