As Jesus washed feet of his disciples, so the feet of Al Herrington were washed, signifying his “servant’s heart” during a special ceremony honoring him for founding and leading the Sonrise Prayer Breakfast.
Almost every Thursday for 34 years, Herrington has driven from Arp, making approximately 1,700 trips, to the 7 a.m. breakfast in Tyler.
It began at Loggins Restaurant with seven or eight people. It has grown with attendance, ranging between 75 and 100, and is now at Sweet Sue’s Restaurant and involved in carrying out a multifaceted ministry fulfilling needs in many ways of countless East Texans.
A dinner and program at the Potpourri House honored Herrington on Tuesday, starting with a slide presentation, pledge of allegiance and performance of three songs by an ensemble from The Brook Hill School.
“Al is constant; he has a consuming desire to help people,” Dr. James Dill, one of the organizers of the program honoring Herrington, said.
Breakfast members and leadership have been involved in helping a family that had no funds with funeral expenses, buying groceries for families, building home wheelchair ramps and donating $10,000 to earthquake victims in Haiti, Dill said.
Brad Harvey, incoming president for Sonrise Prayer Breakfast, read excerpts from letters of appreciation for the ministry.
One letter expressed thanks for all that members of Sonrise Breakfast have done for a family. A letter from St. Paul Children’s Foundation thanked breakfast members for generous support enabling the foundation to continue its mission of helping children and families. Letters from inmates gave thanks for services and encouragement while incarcerated.
Smith County Commissioner Terry Phillips read a resolution on behalf of the commissioners court and county judge proclaiming May 20 as Al Herrington Day.
It stated that the Sonrise Prayer Breakfast “has prayerfully and financially helped thousands of people throughout East Texas to live better lives” and that God has blessed Herrington, 87, “with a long life serving others in Smith County.”
In one of her last official acts as mayor, Barbara Bass delivered a personal letter. She described Herrington as “a man who has given his heart and soul to this community (and) to this prayer group” and said, “It’s wonderful to see the encouragement that he has given to everyone around him for so many years.”
Her letter told Herrington, “As a servant of the Lord, you took on the task of listening and ministering to thousands of families in need. Thank you for your lifelong commitment to helping others and for your love of our community.”
Roses were presented to Ms. Bass in recognition of her tenure as mayor and to Herrington’s wife, Gerry, for her supportive role in the ministry. Herrington thanked his wife and sister for their assistance.
Dr. Ron Wells, of Centrepoint Ministries, who helped lead the ceremony, said Herrington “has ministered to the little, the least, the lost and the left out.”
Herrington was presented a gavel representing his leadership and in appreciation of his “faithful and constant” service. He also was given a sculpture portraying Jesus washing a disciple’s feet and a Bible inside the sculpture.
A special ceremony called “the order of the towel” was carried out. A basin of water was placed on the stage in front of the seated Herrington. As soft music was played in the background, his feet were washed, symbolic of Jesus humbling himself and washing the disciples’ feet.
Dr. Paul Powell, a charter member of Sonrise Prayer Breakfast, compared Herrington to Barnabas in the Bible, who he said was full of faith, always reached out to help somebody else without fanfare but was willing to stay in the background.
Louise Ornelas, who attends the breakfast occasionally, said, “It’s always very nice, very good, inspirational and makes you feel good.”
She said Herrington has “always been a good man and a very loving family man (who) likes to help people in the community.” She noted that Herrington and Sonrise Breakfast members “do a lot of different things” helping others, such as giving Christmas gift boxes and food at Thanksgiving and all through the year.
Herrington said he was surprised by the program honoring him.
“In no way do I deserve this,” he said.