(From left to right) Newton County Commissioners J.C. Henderson, John Douglas and Lanier Sims stand with I Have A Dream award recipient Pastor Ronny Brannen, Chairman Keith Ellis and Commissioners Nancy Schulz and Levie Maddox during Tuesday’s meeting. The board recognized Brannen for his award. Brannen attends the BOC meetings twice a month to lead the commissioners in the opening prayer. (Staff photo: Jessicah Peters)
COVINGTON — Receiving the I Have A Dream award came as a surprise to Prospect United Methodist Church Pastor Ronny Brannen.
He was awarded the honor on Sunday during the annual ecumenical service and award ceremony hosted by the Newton County Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Observance Committee.
The award is given to outstanding individuals or organizations whose service to the community embodies the tenets of King’s philosophy on social justice and community empowerment.
But Brannen said he doesn’t deserve the award.
“I was stunned, completely surprised and amazed. It was a huge honor, but I have a hard time hearing that I deserve this award,” Brannen said. “It’s tough for me. As a pastor, I don’t want what I deserve. I deserve hell, but I thank God for grace. I’m honored to have received it and I see it as a celebration of being involved.”
Brannen is serving his 13th year as the pastor for the Methodist church on Ga. Highway 212 near the Newton, Rockdale line. He’s delved into the community by leading the opening prayer at Newton County Board of Commissioners meetings; serving on the Newton County Recreation Commission; and served as a past president for the Kiwanas Club of Conyers.
Brannen said he made a challenge at the ecumenical service for those in attendance “to be a presence.”
“My challenge and dream is to be a presence of God’s grace and mercy. I’m involved in a lot of different things and I’m grateful for a church that allows me to do that,” Brannen said. “Normally as a Methodist pastor, you travel and it’s hard to get involved in the community, but I’ve been able to do that here in Newton County.”
Brannen has traveled to Mexico, Brazel, Israel, Thailand and many other places to share his faith.
Brannen is also serves the community through his church, which is part of Upward Sports Ministry where 183 children and youth are either playing basketball or cheerleading.
“About 70 percent of the participants are not church members. We’re connecting with Zion Baptist to run games on Saturdays,” Brannen said. “At Prospect we have several firefighters, police officers who are members and we pray for them. I attend the BOC meetings because I’m concerned about our community and want to learn what ways I can stay connected to the county.”
Newton County BOC Chairman Keith Ellis commended Brannen for his involvement during Tuesday’s meeting.
“I can’t think of anyone who is more deserving for this award with all the trips to Africa and all the things you’ve done for Newton County and in the community and not to mention you are here with us twice a month back to lead us in prayer,” Ellis said.
The criteria for being nominated for the I Have A Dream Award included:
• have given two years of service to the Newton County community;
• be a registered voter;
• be affiliated with a church, synagogue or worship center;
• have contributions that are nonprofitable and are visible to the community;
• have contributions that are non-discriminatory;
• be one who models a spirit of peace and unity;
• be one who will initiate and support change;
• be endowed with a humble spirit;
• be steadfast in his or her convictions; and
• be one who fosters and supports education on all levels.