Normally, at Guilford County Board of Commissioners meetings, the opening prayer is given by Guilford County Tax Director Ben Chavis, who’s also an ordained minister. However, Chavis couldn’t make it to the Board of Commissioners’ Thursday, April 18 meeting, so that duty fell to Commissioner Jeff Phillips – who really took the opportunity and ran with it: Phillips raised a few eyebrows by delivering a passionate, distinctly Christian prayer that, among other things, called for everyone to put the unity back into community.
The Rhino Times asked Phillips about the prayer after the meeting.
“I’ve probably never told you, but I almost went into full-time ministry when I was a much younger man,” he said.
It’s worth noting that the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department recently fired a jail minister for being overtly Christian in his message to inmates. Among other things, the minister gave Bibles to incarcerated Muslims. However, commissioners work for no one other than the people who elected them – and that fact entitled Phillips to deliver whatever prayer he wanted at the meeting.
Many elected bodies have either done away with the opening prayer, or, in other cases, offer one so general as not to step on any toes; however Phillips took what some would see has a perfunctory duty and made it his chance to deliver the Jeff Phillips’ Easter Message to the packed commissioners meeting room and those watching on TV across the county.
Phillips, who got several comments about the prayer after the meeting, including one from fellow Commissioner Carolyn Coleman, said later that he did want to make the most of the chance.
“Lord we thank you for the opportunity to come together this evening in service to you and our citizens,” Phillips began. “We ask for your wisdom and guidance as we conduct our business and deliberate the important issues on our agenda.”
At that point, he began to deliver his message of unity for a Board of Commissioners that has recently been greatly divided along racial and political lines.
“I pray that you would help each of us to be sensitive to the opinions, feedback and various perspectives of our citizens and those on the board,” Phillips said. “Help us to be respectful of those whose positions may differ from our own. Help us to represent and reflect you in a manner worthy of your calling on our lives at a time such as this.”
Phillips continued: “As we approach the Easter weekend, and all that it means to your followers, I ask that you help us to reflect on who you are and the great blessing you have bestowed on all of us and our families, and the incredible sacrifice you made on our behalf. Throughout this coming weekend, I ask that you especially help us be reminded of your death, burial and resurrection, and immeasurable appreciation for who you are and for all that you have accomplished on our behalf. We pray for all these things in the name above all names – the awesome and wonderful name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Phillips said the day after the meeting that, even though he didn’t go into the ministry, he still gets in a lot of one on one time with God.
“I’ve had a lot of prayer time with God over the years,” he said. “I have had to ask for a lot of forgiveness and guidance. Years of practice helps.”
Phillips added that he does hope that the Easter weekend will encourage area elected officials along with everyone else to “respect one another regardless of their differing opinions and positions on any number of important issues we’re facing in our country today.”