CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- It was standing room only on the Fourth of July for a community patriotic and worship service at First Baptist Church of Cleveland.
The sanctuary can hold about 1,300 people.
After 153 years downtown, the congregation moved to its giant Stuart Road campus in 2010, said Steve Morgan, a church counselor.
"God wanted us to become an integral part of our community, for days like today,'' Morgan told the crowd during his greeting on behalf of church leaders and members.
The welcome was followed by two hours of mostly music, provided by First Baptist's choir and orchestra and the Voices of Lee from Lee University and soloists.
In his prayer, Mayor Tom Rowland referred to "those who want to stop prayers in public meetings'' and asked, "Give those in public office wisdom to not let it happen.''
After a rousing performance, the Voices of Lee received praise from political leaders as ambassadors for Tennessee, the region and the city. U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., said he intends to make a speech praising the Voices of Lee in the U.S. House of Representatives. State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and state Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, gave the group a plaque on behalf of the governor. Rowland handed each member a pin naming him or her a city ambassador.
"We are one nation under God, forever,'' Fleischmann said to applause.
The community event was organized by the organization His Hands Extended.
It was the first of several community events. The annual fireworks show at Bradley Square Mall was organized by another large church, Mount Olive Ministries. A second fireworks show at Howard Thompson's flea market on U.S. Highway 64 also has become a Cleveland tradition, drawing large crowds.