Ex-Youngstown Mayor Williams extols value of Bible at Men’s Rally in Valley

RIGHT: Guest speaker Apostle Jessie Griffin from Fountain of Grace Temple in Campbell speaks to those in attendance Saturday morning at the Men’s Rally in the Valley at Stambaugh Auditoriu

YOUNGSTOWN – While Facebook, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter) and other powerful sites display content regarding what already has occurred, another “platform” is equipped with the ability to foreshadow events a few millenniums into the future, a former top city official says.

“This is the original social media,” former Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams said while holding up a Bible. “This was written 2,000 years ago; it foretells what will happen.”

That was a key point Williams made as the last of six speakers and musicians who took the stage for the 15th annual Men’s Rally in the Valley gathering Saturday morning and afternoon at Stambaugh Auditorium.

Acting as the free event’s master of ceremonies was Bob Popa, a longtime radio broadcaster.

Others who spoke at the faith-based gathering, themed “Better United Together,” were Rev. Cornell Jordan, pastor of Metro Assembly of God in Youngstown; Andy Hake, Valley Christian School’s head football coach; and Apostle Jessie Griffin, who, along with his wife, Natalie Griffin, oversees Kingdom Reign International Ministries, a church they are forming in Boardman.

Providing worship services and special music were Pastor Brendan Lewis, worship and young adults pastor at Victory Church in Lowellville, and Jonathan White, a music producer from Canton.

Williams, 52, served as Youngstown mayor from 2005 to 2011 and lives in West Hartford, Connecticut. Since 2017, he has been president of the Hartford Foundation and spearheads its commitment to fight structural racism, help others attain greater equity and improve social and economic mobility largely in central Connecticut.

The former mayor told an audience of about 1,000 mostly men that recent events such as the April 8 total solar eclipse and the series of earthquakes earlier this month in the New England area have caused him to reflect further on the various ways many people interact with society.

During his talk, Williams used the word “but,” also the acronym for “Better United Together,” to contrast the conditions of when people truly are united with one another with what he sees as this country’s two major political parties’ primary goal of looking out merely for their own interests.

To illustrate that point, Williams cited Ecclesiastes 4:12, which talks in essence about the power of two people to maintain unity with each other, even if one suffers adversity. He then paraphrased Matthew 12:25 in which Jesus Christ tells his followers that any kingdom in which its people fight one another will be ruined, as towns and families that engage in fighting will ultimately destroy themselves.

Williams described himself as an optimist, but said that many of today’s political machinations often have tested his faith, in part because the country’s political climate has sought to normalize what was not long ago considered extreme. Neither party “has a monopoly on righteousness,” Williams added.

“As people of faith, we should never compromise our principles,” he said.

The former six-year Youngstown mayor told the worshippers that espousing “a spirit of discernment” is a sound way to handle the upcoming political season, meaning striving to do what is always right as opposed to what is almost right.

In addition, it’s vital to realize that everything the world offers is secondary to the first two of the 10 Commandments, which say to love God with all of one’s heart, mind and soul as well as to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

Jordan, who travels across the U.S. as well as to Africa and elsewhere as an evangelist, discussed several passages in the Book of Luke that, in effect, describe an important man asking Christ how to have eternal life, to which Christ says to follow all of the Commandments. That alone, however, isn’t enough: The man also should sell everything, then give to the poor to be guaranteed riches in heaven.

Likewise, it’s important to go to church “for (spiritual) equipment,” but then to place it in practice in the streets, Jordan told his flock.

Nevertheless, those who follow Christ’s example can expect to have others who hate them, as Christ did. If the haters do come out, however, “you’re doing it right,” he added.

Jordan also recalled intense anger he felt at lacking a father figure during his childhood. His father died when Jordan was 16, but over time, he surrendered his rage to God and was on a path toward healing.

“Everything changed at that point,” Jordan said.

Also during his presentation, the longtime minister waved a white flag and encouraged those in the audience to do the same as a symbolic gesture of surrendering one’s life to Christ.

New this year to the annual Christian tradition was a Youth Wonder-Fun gathering across the street in the Wick Park pavilion. That portion featured live bands performing worship music, a table filled with religious books and booklets, food and a variety of festivities aimed at young people.

“It’s an opportunity to say, ‘Jesus loves you.’ I hope that seed is planted,” the Rev. Jacob Mudger, associate pastor of Life with Christ Ministries in Lisbon, said.

The North Side park setup also fulfilled part of the rally’s vision via offering more for families, he added.

Also represented was the Lisbon church’s All in Youth portion for those 10 to 17, Mudger said.

In addition, the gathering featured nearly 30 ministry tables at which such organizations as the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods (ACTION), Teen Challenge and the Stambaugh Academy were represented, the Rev. Tarone Claybrook, volunteer pastor with Victory Church, noted.

This year, a greater effort was made to fill the program with speakers who have local and regional ties, Claybrook said.

Other ministry tables included those from a diverse set of agencies and organizations, including Hitchcock Woods Kindergarten, Preschool & Daycare, the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley, NOW Youngstown, the Golden Street Ministries, Charles Island Investors and March for Jesus Mahoning Valley.

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