Pastors become peacemakers during George Zimmerman trial

4 seats inside Seminole County courtroom reserved for clergy

SANFORD, Fla. - Just four days before jury selection in the George Zimmerman trial, a group of pastors filed into the Seminole County Sheriff's Office to talk strategy for their upcoming jobs as peacemakers and informers.

Growing concern is not only for the trial itself, but how central Florida will react to the testimony and the verdict. So, local pastors in Sanford who will be in the courtroom met with the Department of Justice to discuss the best way to keep the peace.

Clergy will get four seats inside the courtroom each day, but many more will be outside, surrounding the courthouse, to help pacify potential protests.

A year ago, when rallies clogged Sanford and racial tension grew, a group of pastors met to talk peace. The Reverend Harry Rucker of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Sanford and The Reverend Charles Holt of St Peter's Episcopal Church in Lake Mary were among them.

"The ultimate request a year ago was that he [Zimmerman] be charged, was that he get arrested. Now that he's arrested, now that he's in the system, let's let the system do what it's supposed to do," said Rucker.

They're part of Sanford Pastors Connecting, which will rotate clergy in and out of their four assigned seats inside the courtroom to take what happened back to their churches.

"If we're there, regardless of the outcome, then we're able to go back and communicate to our people the truth," said Rucker. "Our concern is that first of all that justice be done and out concern is that people be calm and orderly."

They're hoping despite protests outside, that what happens inside the courtroom can lead to better race-relations. The pastors have already been getting a sense of how people in their communities are feeling leading up to the trial, and they believe people are calm.

"Tragedies happen, violence happens in every community," said Holt. "The difference is how does a community responds."

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