BRUNSWICK, Ga. -- Pastor Kenneth Adkins of the Greater Dimensions Christian Fellowship in Brunswick began his Sunday morning service with an apology.
"I want to unequivocally apologize to the family whose son was taken, I want to apologize as a pastor, as a community leader, the things that, maybe some things we could have done, we should have done," Adkins said.
Sherry West, mother of the slain toddler was told of the apology."I appreciate his apology. He knows how responsible you have to be when you have children."
Adkins says he's lost sleep because the 17-year-old suspect Demarquis Elkins used to attend his church with a grandparent, but they left. He thinks of what he could have done to have more influence on the boy's life.
Adkins believes this incident has led to racial tension in the community, and for that he also apologizes.
"We do not want to see this again," he said.
Adkins wants his church and the faith community to get involved. He plans to suggest to the school system and the local housing authority a plan he calls MARS, monitoring at risk students. He wants kids who show signs of trouble to be referred to the faith community. He says they can then monitor and mentor those who have been suspended, or had numerous referrals.
"Every child that is referred to the alternative school, should also be referred to a church in the neighborhood where they live, amen," said Adkins. He went on to say if the state can give a child a probation officer, most certainly the state ought to be able to give a child a pastor.
Adkins speaks from experience. He is an ex -offender who turned his life around, but he wishes someone would have intervened in his life before he turned to serious crime.
"I don't believe people wake up one day and say I am going to go out and kill a 13-month old.I believe that that is a progression, and if we catch them early, maybe we could have prevented that child's death."
In an emotional moment in the service, young children were anointed with oil, a symbol ofspiritualprotection, and a public declaration that this church was committed to making sure this doesn't happen again.
"In the name of Jesus, nobody else is going to jail. This is not going to happen again," said Adkins as the children were anointed.