Recently, Marcus Pointe Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida held its twenty-first annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Sunday. More than three hundred retired and active officers and their families attended the service. Approximately fifty-three agencies were represented on the state, county, and federal level, including: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Florida Department of Corrections, Florida Game and Freshwater Preservation, NAS Police, University of West Florida Police Department, Pensacola State College Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the City of Pensacola Police Department, City of Gulf Breeze Police Department, City of Milton Police Department, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Department of Agriculture, Florida Department of Transportation, and Florida Highway Patrol.
The service began with the presentation of the colors by the Honor Guards of Santa Rosa and Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. The church presented an original video of local injured officers, including Escambia County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Cassady. Senior Pastor Gordon Godfrey, Junior, recognized three local Deputies: Jeremy Cassady, Steve Hough, and Pat Gibson, who were severely injured in the line of duty and who are considered “walking miracles” among the community.
Two empty chairs were placed at center stage, draped with uniforms and duty gear, to represent fallen officers. Retired Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Deputy Jerry Henderson, Jr., who had survived a shooting incident that occurred in 1984, spoke briefly of the number of officers that had been killed or wounded over the past year and encouraged the congregation to remember the fallen.
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan and Pensacola Police Chief Chip Simmons addressed the congregation and expressed their appreciation to Pastor Godfrey and to the community for their support.
Escambia County Sheriff’s Sergeant Ray Robinson sang a breathtaking rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone’”.
Senior Pastor Gordon Godfrey delivered a brief message on “Partnerships”. He began by showing photos of famous partners, including Joe Friday and Bill Gannon, Starsky and Hutch, John and Ponch from CHPS, Crockett and Tubbs from Miami Vice, and Turner and Hooch. Pastor Godfrey encouraged the congregation to work on strengthening their own partnerships, including their partnerships with God, their significant others, and their partnerships with their subordinates, coworkers, and within their communities.
Afterward, the attendees were directed to the Fellowship Hall for a delicious, home-cooked meal and fellowship. The church presented each agency with plaque of recognition for their service to the community. Each individual was presented with a gift bag to show that they are appreciated. Pastor Godfrey also distributed business cards with his personal cell phone number. He assured the attendees that he and the church are available to them at any time.
Pastor Gordon Godfrey stated that he has always felt that part of his mission is to minister to the law enforcement community.
“Law enforcement is a vast opportunity for ministry that is sometimes overlooked. Government is an institution that is ordained by God, so essentially, they are doing God’s work. Law Enforcement Officers are an example of God’s authority, and they are role models; therefore, they should be held in high esteem.”
“Law Enforcement officers are ministers to the community,” he continued. “But sometimes the ‘minister’ needs to be ministered to. We want to offer our officers a ‘retreat’ from the stress of their job. We want our officers to know that we are available for them in their time of need, just as they are there for us in our times of need. Officers do not have to be members of the congregation in order to contact us.”
He started hosting Law Enforcement Appreciation Sunday in 1984, at his church in Panama City, FL. He wanted to continue this ministry after he and his family relocated to Pensacola in the early 1990’s.
“First, we had to establish who we are and why we are here,” Pastor Godfrey explained. “I discussed my desire to establish a law enforcement ministry with former Escambia County Sheriff Ron McNesby, who was a patrol deputy at the time. We then presented our idea to then-Sheriff Jim Lowman, who wholeheartedly supported it.”
“We held our first service in May, 1992, and scheduled it to coincide with National Police Week. Occasionally we have had quest speakers from the LAPD and the NYPD. We used to include all our community heroes, including firefighters and emergency personnel, but the ministry grew to the point that we had to narrow it down to law enforcement.’
“Our mission is to reach out to those servants that are vital to our community, yet are often overlooked. The message we want to convey is this: You are making a difference, and do not be discouraged; people appreciate you more than you realize.”
The church’s ministry is greatly appreciated by the law enforcement community.
Deputy Cassady, who had been critically injured in a home invasion incident in 2010, stated that he is grateful for the recognition. “Appreciation from the community is greatly appreciated,” he said.
Pensacola Police Department Sgt. Kevin Christman agreed: “It is great that the church does this. We do not expect it, but the fact that they take the time to do this immeasurable.”