BROOKSVILLE — Bishop John E. Carr, pastor of Vision Temple Ministries Inc., has high hopes for the new year.
"We're hoping to do something at the beginning of the year to bring the community together," he said. To lead the community in that direction, Carr's church will be the host of a New Year's Conference next weekend at the Hernando County Fairgrounds.
Carr thinks the community has lost the unity it had when he was growing up here.
"I was born and raised in Hernando County," he said. "Our community right now is much more divided than it was back then. We had more togetherness when we were coming up. There was more for us to do as a community, and we participated more together."
Carr hopes the conference will help to change all that.
The theme for the event, "Watch Out, It's Contagious," was given to Carr by God, he said.
"I wasn't really planning on putting on this conference," Carr said. "I wasn't even thinking about a conference. I was reading in Acts the second chapter and that shows where the Holy Ghost fell upon all of them and all understood in their own languages and many believed, so that was a contagious thing.
"What we're saying with that theme that the Lord gave me is that when you come and see what's going on, it will be contagious," he said.
Carr's wife, Geraldine, an elder in the church, said she, too, is hoping and praying that the conference will draw the community together.
"If we look at it, it's all about love and love is a contagious thing," she said.
"When a person is truly in love with Christ and when somebody gets around them, they feel that love. It's catching, so it draws them. What we want to do is draw people in together to where we can begin to love like we're supposed to love no matter what color, race or creed."
The event will begin at 6 p.m. Friday with an evangelistic service with guest speaker Apostle J. L. Cash. That session will last until about 11.
On Saturday, the day will begin with breakfast at 9, followed by sessions for men and women from 10 to 11 a.m.
"It will deal with issues that men and women have," Carr said. "Whether they're clergy, secular or whatever, we have issues that we deal with in marriages and life that we'll be discussing and dealing with."
After a break, the conference will resume at 3 p.m. with the pastor from Without Walls Church in Tampa, Fred Thomas and Pastor Latwanda Slaughter from New Port Richey.
At 6 p.m. there will be a Gospel Jam featuring several local groups including Voices of Love, Generations, Ladies in Waiting and the Vision Praise Team. Carr said there will be music for people of all ages.
"We have a lot of young folks singing and we have some elderly, so it will be young as well as old type of Gospel music. A lot of the young folks right now want to express themselves in hip-hop, but they can express it also in Gospel rap because we're looking at having some of that as well."
On Sunday, there will be Sunday school at 9:30 and a worship service at 11 a.m. A "Dual Day Conference" with separate sessions for men and women will begin at 3 p.m. with Bishop J. Jones and Pastor Joyce Jackson.
"We'll close out with a bang, just worshipping and fellowshipping together," Carr said about the dual portion of the event.
The conference will conclude with a dinner at 5 p.m.
The cost for the event is $15 for an individual or $25 for a couple and includes all three days. Those attending may attend all or just some of the events.
Carr thinks the conference will be good for the community and hopes many people will want to attend.
"Hopefully the turnout will be such that they will see that we have something going on for all parts of our community, including the youth," he said. "I think people will take away a whole lot of positive outlooks on things at the beginning of our New Year that we actually can accomplish."
His wife agrees.
"I remember the president [elect] talking about change. It's going to promote change also," Mrs. Carr said. "It's going to be a big change in the community. I believe this in my heart. It's the first big event we've set out to do. I believe it's God-led, and I believe God is going to take it where it's supposed to go."
Gail Hollenbeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.