The Statesboro Exchange Club's annual "One Nation Under God" prayer luncheon included veterans, active duty and retired service members and area pastors and ministers, who all enjoyed fellowship and celebrated a project that began in 1964.
The One Nation Under God project was created specifically to build a greater respect for the Pledge of Allegiance, but its mission also includes "to promote increased use of the Pledge in schools and at public gatherings; to combat all efforts to remove the words ‘under God' from the Pledge; to encourage and promote religious services by local churches on Thanksgiving Day or Thanksgiving eve; to promote attendance at such services to members and non-members; and to prayerfully thank God for the blessings of liberty bestowed on America."
Harold Piet, minister of Pembroke Christian Church, captain of the Patriot Guard Riders and a retired Army veteran with 20 years of service, was the keynote speaker at the event.
Though Piet is an ordained minister and serves regularly in Pembroke, he said his desire is to help churches who are in temporary need of a pastor, and he often fills in until the churches find full-time ministers.
Removing the coat and tie that he jokingly said he wore just to prove he had one, Piet revealed his leather motorcycle vest underneath and proudly spoke of his passion for reaching those that might not be regular church attenders.
"God needs to be heard outside the doors of the church," he said. "The best way to love the unlovable is to get close to God."
Piet is a member of the Christian Motorcycle Association and said he attends bike club meetings and bike events, "not to judge them but to tell them of the Judge, to tell them of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
"We have the book with all the instructions on how to get to Heaven," Piet said, while holding up his Bible.
National Exchange Club President Elizabeth Grantham, who is a member of the Exchange Club of the Isle of Palms in South Carolina and has 38 years of experience in the education field, addressed the crowded room and shared the history of the original Exchange Club.
The first local Exchange Club was established in Detroit in 1911 and then traveled to Toledo, Ohio, two years later. Now, more than 650 local clubs exist throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.
Exchange Clubs serve their community and, ultimately, their country in keeping with the club's vision of "a strong America, safe communities and unified people," she said.
The motto, adopted in 1917, was originated by Charles Berkey, the founder of the first Exchange Club. Berkey said the motto, "unity for service," was inspired by the 133rd Psalm of the Bible, which says, "Behold how good and pleasant for brethren to dwell together in unity."
Grantham pointed out that one of the aims of the One Nation Under God event is to "increase an appreciation of a rich heritage, to remind Americans to always trust in a higher power for guidance and strength."
Special music was provided by the Rev. Rhon Carter, David Brinson, and Elton and Patricia Hunter, who are all members of the music ministry at First Baptist Church Statesboro.