It may not sound like polite breakfast conversation, but one pastor wanted to ask if Rock Hill’s leaders are going to wash people’s feet.
That was the question that hung over the Come-See-Me festival’s annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast on Tuesday. Former Carolina Panthers player Derwin L. Gray, pastor of Transformation Church in Indian Land, took the opportunity to ask community leaders if they were willing to take on “a new kind of leadership that’s really an old kind of leadership,” the kind Jesus displayed in the Bible when he got down on his knees to wash his disciples’ feet.
“When you wake up, do you think about profits and status, or do you think about what you can do to make someone else’s life better?” Gray asked.
In his own life, Gray saw that style of “servant leadership” displayed by D.W. Rutledge, his high school football coach in San Antonio, Texas. Rutledge was a man his players would “run through a brick wall for,” Gray said, someone who never talked about winning, but taught his players about teamwork and becoming men.
Rutledge once admitted to Gray he broke down in tears when he had to leave his dream job as a college defensive coordinator, but recommitted himself to being the best coach his high school team could possibly have. Gray credits Rutledge’s influence on his life with eventually landing him a position in the NFL, and a chance to escape a life of poverty.
“His dream died, so that mine could live,” Gray said.
If those listening to Gray’s speech at Westminster Presbyterian Church on Tuesday don’t feel like they have their life together, Gray said, it may be because they should think more of who they can serve rather than being served themselves.
“Who’s feet are you washing?” he said.
Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols, the titular host of the event, told the crowd the annual breakfast put on by the Rock Hill Kiwanis should be a springboard for that kind of leadership.
“This gives us a spirit of community-building, which is important because there are so many needs out there,” Echols said. “It’s important what we do when we leave here... Just like with the pastor’s football coach, when we have a true experience of touching others’ lives, those lives go on to touch others.”
About 300 people attended the breakfast, held in conjunction with the 10-day Come-See-Me festival.
Bristow Marchant • 803-329-4062