The Rev. James W. Byrd Sr., a Bulloch County native, has held many positions throughout his career, but he has grand plans for his new role as president of Concerned Clergy of Bulloch County.
As he explains, Concerned Clergy is “a group of ministers and pastors that want to promote unity, spirituality and an attitude of Christ within the community.” The group meets regularly to pray, share, and discuss ways to carry out their goals.
Especially on his heart, he said, is the thought of “unity” for his hometown. Byrd has a passion for uniting black and white worshippers for the good of the Lord, but he believes there are still challenges to be met.
“It’s coming up against powerful historical traditions, but in the end, God’s will will prevail over our personal interests,” he said.
Byrd’s early education came at a time when many of the schools, especially in the South, were segregated. He graduated from William James School in 1966 and left Bulloch County at age 19 for college.
Byrd enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1968, completed training (and got married) in New Jersey and served as squad leader in Berlin, Germany, before transitioning to the Army Reserve in 1974. He saw his share of discrimination because of race during some of that time.
Despite challenges, he served his country for 40 years, including time in Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, the War on Terror and the conflicts in Southwest Asia. He received many awards and medals for his service.
Just before returning to Bulloch County, Byrd was special assistant for administration of the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Department and associate pastor at Koinonia Worship Center in Hollywood, Fla.
Byrd and his wife, Elaine, left four adult children, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild in south Florida. Currently, Byrd serves as pastor of New St. Andrews Chapel Church in Sylvania.
Home again after so many years, counties and countries later, Byrd has great love and compassion for his community. He shares his heart with fellow members of Concerned Clergy, and he hopes to spread that passion to others.
“This is the time of year that our hearts tend to be more tender, a little softer and a little more forgiving than any other time of the year,” Byrd said. “It it’s the time of year that we are more compassionate and caring towards our neighbor.
“We convince ourselves that it is more rewarding and beneficial for us in the eyes of God, when we are more giving, as if we are doing Him a favor,” he continued. “This is the time of year that debts are forgiven, resentments are put aside and broken relationships are mended and restored, at least through the holidays. In a sense, at this time of year we feel spiritually obligated to be more Christ-like in our attitude and behavior.”
This prompts a question from Byrd.
“But aren’t you glad that God does not wait until the holiday season to express his love for us?” he said. “He demonstrates His love and compassion towards us 365 days a year. If you are a believer, God wants you to be a joyful giver from January to December. As believers and ambassadors for Christ, we should compel ourselves to demonstrate genuine Christ-like love towards our neighbors, regardless of who they are.”
He concluded with this message.
“Let us be reminded that Christmas represents the birth of Christ Jesus, the greatest gift of all; and then he paid the greatest price of all, so that we could experience the greatest love of all,” he said.
“We, the Concerned Clergy of Bulloch County Inc., would like to wish each of you a very merry Christmas, and that your joy will increase and your life is spiritually enriched during this holiday season and upcoming year.”