Apr. 3—PEMBROKE — Good Friday felt more like Thanksgiving for the group of more than 30 people who gathered in prayer Friday on the front steps of the Lumbee Tribe Housing Complex.
The prayer service takes place each year in honor of the Christian holiday that commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus and his death three days before he rose again, which is celebrated by myriad churches on Easter.
"Today was a day almost like Thanksgiving, just thanking God for getting us through these hard times and through this pandemic," Lumbee Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. said. "We've come through tough times but positive things have come out of this."
Tribal members and clergymen gathered despite the chill in the wind to carry on the annual tradition that has not been held since 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The prayer was led by Tribal Council Speaker Ricky Burnett, who also spoke on the love and compassion that tribal members share among each other, the importance of the holiday and how it relates to what the nation, the state, the county and the tribe have faced over the past year.
"With the death of Christ they thought it was over, but on that Sunday he rose from the grave. All this is saying is we're going to be able to rise up and come forward, and we're going to be able to get through this pandemic," said Burnett, who also is the pastor of Pleasant View Baptist Church in Fairmont.
Just the ability to come together again shows a ray of hope for the nation, Burnett said.
"It's been a hard year — we all know that — for the nation and for our Lumbee people, but by coming together like this we're seeing better things because slowly things are changing," he said. "That's why we're coming together — showing our support one for another, to not to give up, to hold on, that we can just progress on, that we're looking for a better day."
"With this being Good Friday and Easter coming, every day is a new meaning for us," he added.
Jimmy Hammonds, pastor of Bethel Hill Baptist Church on Shannon Road in Lumberton, has been participating in the annual prayer gathering since it began five years, and Friday's event was no exception.
"It's important to fellowship, with fellow employees and fellow community members just letting them know how good it is to be here on Good Friday," Hammonds said.
Godwin began holding weekly prayer services and offering spiritual counseling in addition to holding the annual prayer event when he became chairman.
"This has been a part of my administration — to have weekly prayer, prayer on Christmas and prayer on Easter — to ask for God's blessings, not only on the Lumbee people but all of the people in Robeson County," Godwin said.
Godwin believes spirituality is in Robeson County's makeup.
"That's one of our core values in the Lumbee people, and I think most people in the area, is our belief in God. That's what has sustained us, and I felt like it was important to bring that into our workplace for people that want to participate," Godwin said.
This year's prayer service became the most important, with Godwin having much to be thankful for. He not only boasted the accomplishments and gains of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, but also the good health of he and his wife, who was diagnosed with cancer last year.
"Neither me or my wife have tested positive for COVID," Godwin said. "I've been tested 11 times since it started and we've been vaccinated and that gives us just an endless peace."
Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or 910-416-5865.