Norfolk minister offers a benediction for all to appreciate

by | May 9, 2024 | Other News

Those of us who attend major civic events, Jews and some non-Jews alike, wait for it. When a minister delivers the invocation, it is often with some religious fervor and a beseeching to the Savior “in whose name we pray.” But at the Hampton Roads Chamber’s recent Norfolk State of the City event, held at the Main and attended by 1,000 local citizens, I for one was delighted at the choice of presenter and even more by his words and closing.

W.D. Tyree III is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Berkley and the Chamber’s Vice Chair for Interfaith Relations. Read his words, which I thought were magnificent on so many levels.

“Eternal God,
As we gather in this esteemed assembly to reflect on the State of the City of Norfolk, we come before You with hearts full of gratitude and humility. We acknowledge the abundant blessings You have bestowed upon our community and the opportunities You have provided for growth and prosperity.

In Your infinite wisdom, You have woven a tapestry of diversity into the fabric of our city, blessing us with a multitude of talents, cultures, and perspectives. Grant us the wisdom to embrace and celebrate these differences, recognizing them as gifts from Your hand.

Guide us, O Lord, to foster an environment of inclusivity and acceptance, where every voice is heard, and every individual is valued for their unique contributions. Help us to break down the barriers that divide us and to build bridges of understanding and compassion.

We lift up our business leaders to You, O God, asking for Your guidance as they navigate the complexities of the marketplace. Instill in them a deep commitment to ethical conduct and moral integrity, that they may lead with wisdom and integrity, always striving to do what is right in Your sight.

May our endeavors be marked not only by success but by a steadfast dedication to serving the common good and uplifting the marginalized and oppressed. Help us to be agents of positive change in our city, working tirelessly to create a more just and equitable society for all.

Bless our efforts, O Lord, and let them be a testament to Your boundless grace and mercy. May we walk in Your ways, seeking justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with You, now and always.

This we ask as we unapologetically celebrate business (Chamber’s tagline), Amen.

Sitting up front, I rushed to Pastor Tyree as he left the stage and told him his writing was spot-on for the occasion, and as a Jew, I had never felt more included. I then e-mailed him and asked for the text of his message. He responded, “thank you for taking the time to reach out to me again. I have reflected every day on your kind words since the event.” He encouraged me to share the invocation.

I, among others, endure religious speech in the public square and don’t make a public fuss, but we call attention when individuals like W.T. Tyree recognize the opportunity they have to bring us together and do so. Thank you sir.