BLOUNTVILLE — To mark National Day of Prayer, Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey took to a makeshift pulpit Thursday, feet from his office in the Sullivan County Courthouse, to preach against President Obama for “embarrassing us” with a “disgraceful” telephone call to National Basketball Association player Jason Collins.
Godsey, the first speaker at an hourlong Christian church service in the courthouse’s commission room, first said he was “probably going to get fussed at a little bit” for what he was about to say.
“I’ve been watching the TV this week and it appalls me, it just literally makes me furious, that we as a nation, as blessed as we are, what has been on the TV for the last week,” Godsey said. “What has been on the TV for the past week? I could stand here and preach today. It really and truly just irritates me to the point I just, you know ... on the TV all week long we are celebrating an NBA player coming out as a devout homosexual and him getting a call from the president of the United States — the most free ... God bestowed more grace on this country than any other country in the world. And yet we have a president that calls and congratulates and commends a guy (as if) he’s a national hero for coming out of the closet, per se. How disgraceful is that? And then we’ve got a past president that commends him for it. I, I tell you folks, if we don’t get on our knees and pray for this nation, you know what’s going to happen one day? For all of us in here, I believe we’re all believers, but you know what’s going to happen? We’re going to cast our eyes up in the eastern sky and you know what we’re going to see? We’re going to see ‘Ichabod’ written across through there. And God’s gonna say ‘Hey, I’ve had it. You all got more ability and more potential and more chances to hear the word of God and hear scripture and be saved.’ There’s churches on every corner. There’s probably more churches around here than there are school buildings. I mean, there are churches on every corner. But, yet, we allow the leader of our free nation to embarrass us. And you know what folks? It’s our fault. Christians have sat on their rear ends and have sat too long and allowed for this kind of nonsense to go on. Now, I’m done preaching, I’m sorry.”
Godsey’s comments drew a round of applause.
Godsey went on to request prayer for two county commissioners, one for illness, and another for a death in the family.
Godsey then told those gathered to “make yourself at home, this is your courthouse.”
“People have asked me ‘ain’t you worried about gettin’ in trouble?’” Godsey said in an apparent reference to separation of church and state. “Hey, my God is bigger than these people that want to come after me. That’s OK.”
Johnny Coggin, worship pastor at Tri-Cities Baptist Church, led the church’s worship team in providing music and singing for the event.
Coggin said they were there to lead attendees “in truth and to focus our eyes on God” and for the purpose of praying together to God.
“We want to do that because of who He is and what He’s done and how good He is to us,” Coggin said, going on to quote Psalm 96 — which in part states “Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns.’”
“We want to do that today,” Coggin said. “We want to do that with you, to say here, in a public place, in a government building, that the Lord reigns. We want to lift Him high. And we want then to bring our requests to him.”
The rest of the service included three hymns, and opening prayer and pledge to the flag (led by Pastor Dwight Shaffer of Blountville Christian Church), the main “message” (from Pastor Mike Laughrun, of Tri-Cities Baptist Church), and closing remarks and prayer for the nation (from Pastor Andy Wood, of Bethel View Baptist Church).
Godsey thanked the other county officials and courthouse employees who worked to organize the event.
And Godsey thanked everyone for participating and encouraged anyone without a church home to meet with any of the pastors.
“Most of all I appreciate you’re all coming out and us being able to share some time,” Godsey said. “It kind of gives me a boost for the rest of the year, because this place has been prayed over and this is my place of work every day.”
Godsey choked up a little at that point, and said, “It makes me feel like that I’m clean again, for these guys to come in and lift us up in prayer and pray for the nation and this building and for the folks that work here. It just really makes me realize how blessed we are in this area.”