Manatee pastors use Hawaiian pizza as a symbol for MLK message of unity

PALMETTO -- Perhaps no one at the Palmetto Youth Center Sunday will ever look at Hawaiian pizza the same way, at least not without thinking of the Rev. Phillip Hamm's speech at the 2015 Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Service.

Hamm told the crowd of 200 that he'd always felt that ham had its place and pineapple had its place, but not together on a pizza.

Then, he tasted a slice of Hawaiian pizza.

"A little bit of ham, a little bit of pineapple, both together, mmmmm, wow!" Hamm said, the crowd beginning to understand that his real message was unity between faces, faiths, denominations and creeds.

"Just like a pineapple pizza," he said, "I think something in our souls says this is the way it is supposed to be."

Hamm, who leads First Baptist Church of Palmetto, was one of nine pastors, a mix of white, black and Hispanic clergy, who spoke at the Manatee County Community Pastor's Fellowship Service to honor the Rev. King. The theme was "Oneness in Christ."

The pastors who spoke included the Rev. Joey Mimbs, of Bethel Baptist; the Rev. Tim Boyd, of Westside Christian; the Rev. Dexter McDonald, of Community Outreach; Hamm; the Rev. Andy Avalos, of Iglesia El Crucero, Palmetto; the Rev. Sirnest Webster, of Bible Baptist Church; the Rev. Eleanor Gillylan, Freedom House of God; the Rev. Ted Tillis, of House of God; and the Rev. Willie Holley, Pathway Fellowship Center.

Later, the Rev. Webster won applause and a smile of appreciation from Hamm when he told the crowd, "Unity is like a Hawaiian pizza."

If Hawaiian pizza was the main course, the two gospel choirs were the dessert.

Choir director Shelless Bellamy ignited the choir of Palmetto's Bible Baptist Church in a thunderous version of "The Blood Still Works."

Georgie Mickler, as usual, was a stand-out for the roughly 30-member choir.

Trinity Christian Fellowship Center Choir also performed for the appreciative crowd.

In the night's most emotional moment, Avalos' voice broke as he told the gathering that his son had done a "terrible thing, a tragedy that has affected many."

Avalos' son, Andres Avalos III, has been charged with murdering his wife, a neighbor and a local pastor on Dec. 4.

"This violence needs to stop and I think it's the responsibility of the church," Avalos said. "I hope the spir

it that lived in Dr. King will compel us to change the world."

Before the service, the Rev. Joey Mimbs said he wondered what King would say to Americans in 2015.

The Rev. Ted Tillis replied, "I think he would note advances like the diverse groups we have now, that we didn't have 25 years ago. But he would also say there is still work to be done."

Audience member Joyce Randle said, "I think Dr. King would say we've done some good at erasing racism, but the job isn't done. I think he would say, 'A lot of our black young men are going the wrong way.' "

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.