Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pastors Preach Containing Conflict; Must Make Sure Youth Don't 'End Up in These Situations Again'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pastors Preach Containing Conflict; Must Make Sure Youth Don't 'End Up in These Situations Again'

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Patterson

Cake and punch were served Sunday at Greater Dimensions Christian Fellowship, and members of the Brunswick, Ga., church sang "Happy Birthday" in a teenager's honor.

And the church's pastor talked about lessons from the life of that youth, Jordan Davis, who would have turned 19 Sunday if he had survived a 2012 shooting outside a Jacksonville gas station.

Instead, the Rev. Kenneth Adkins had spent most of the past two weeks in a courtroom where the man who killed Davis stood trial.

Like some other ministers in the region, Adkins talked Sunday about the importance of young people learning to manage conflicts before they turn deadly.

"I don't think Jordan Davis did anything that he deserved to be killed for. But most certainly some of his behavior had things that led to it," he said.

Davis was shot after exchanging words with Michael Dunn, a man 28 years his senior who objected to the loud rap music Davis and his friends listened to inside an SUV.

A need to contain those conflicts, or avoid them entirely, was underscored by the Dunn trial, which ended Saturday after a jury deadlocked on whether to convict or acquit Dunn in Davis' murder but convicted Dunn of three counts of attempted murder.

"A lot of us understand the importance of equipping our youth to handle these situations," said the Rev. John Guns, pastor of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Jacksonville, who made the verdict part of his sermon.

Rev. Guns created an organization, Operation Save Our Sons, that tries to help adolescents and teens handle their problems constructively.

He said later that the verdict "was bittersweet for many of us. ... Many of us would have loved to see him convicted of the first charge [murder]." Despite disappointment Saturday, he said families need to focus on preventing repeats of that sort of violence.

"Our challenge is as a community, we must respond in some strategic way ... to make sure our young men do not end up in these situations again. …

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