Baha'i News -- Western Virginia celebrates National Day of Prayer Friday, May 03, 2002

A woman's plea referred to all humans as 'children of the same father'

Western Virginia celebrates National Day of Prayer

The designation of the first Thursday in May for an annual event was enacted by Congress in 1988.


   "You can never have too much prayer."

    Hundreds of people apparently agreed with Renita Joyce, as they participated in National Day of Prayer services Thursday in churches and public squares throughout Western Virginia.

    At the 10th annual service at Lee Plaza in downtown Roanoke more than 100 people gathered at the war memorial to hear prayers and music, and to unite in silent prayer for the country.

    Joyce and fellow First Union National Bank employees Denise Walker and Nicole Hurt walked over with three other co-workers to join the corporate prayers.

    About 200 people also gathered in front of the Salem Municipal Building and about 60 at Lynn Haven Baptist Church in Vinton. Some 60 people gathered near the Blacksburg Municipal Building, while at Main Street Baptist Church in Christiansburg, about 65 met in the sanctuary, and a smaller group of home-school ed students met for prayer in the courtyard.

    Civic leaders participated in many of the events.

    Roanoke Mayor Ralph Smith read a proclamation of a day of prayer for the city. Knowing that other civic leaders - including municipal employees and council members - were gathering in other cities and counties "says a lot," he said. "It sends a wonderful message when all of the leaders come together in the community to pray."

    Proclamations of national days of prayer date back to George Washington, but the designation of the first Thursday in May for an annual event was not enacted by Congress until 1988.

    The observation has no single sponsor, but a National Day of Prayer Task Force is headed by Shirley Dobson, wife of radio and television personality and author James Dobson. The group promoted the theme "America United Under God" and advocated the use of a prayer by the Rev. Lloyd Ogilvie, chaplain of the U.S. Senate.

    Ogilvie's prayer was read at Roanoke's downtown service by Russ Alden, director of Christian service at Greene Memorial United Methodist Church.

    The official invocation was given by the Rev. John Sylvester-Johnson of the Roanoke Rescue Mission. He asked God to remind those praying with him of the need to help the downtrodden and less fortunate. He also asked God to "grant us the wisdom to dismantle the unseen systems of oppression and despair" that can lead to desperate acts by the oppressed.

    There were few direct references to the events of Sept. 11 during the prayers, but several that seemed linked to them, such as Sylvester-Johnson's.

    For some, Sept. 11 was not an incentive to come out for this year's event because "prayer should have been important before that happened," said Walker, a First Union employee.

    For others, the event was a chance to demonstrate unity in the face of differences.

    Shannon Fletcher was not scheduled on the program, but she offered a prayer to "make the nations one" and referred to all humans as "children of the same father."

    Fletcher, a Baha'i, was the only non-Christian speaker at the downtown Roanoke event. She was glad to have been allowed to speak, she said, to help "show people that even in a relatively small town, there's diversity wherever you go. ... That's what makes our nation great."

©Copyright 2002, THE ROANOKE TIMES

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