Bahai News - Governor touts tolerance at mayor's prayer group Wednesday, May 3, 2000

Governor touts tolerance at mayor's prayer group


FAYETTEVILLE -- Local ministers and government officials preached unity at the eighth annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast on Tuesday at the Fayetteville Hilton. Keynote speaker Gov. Mike Huckabee urged the crowd of more than 400 to find common ground while taking spiritual beliefs seriously.
"It is not our place in society to impose our faith on others, but faith is a part of our lives and we should not hide it," Huckabee said. "If we really are people of faith, we look at other people not for what they can do to or for us but look at them as someone God values."
The crowded 6:30 a.m. meeting, which kicked off local National Day of Prayer celebrations, was the largest in the event's history. The first was held in Mayor Fred Hanna's first full year in office in 1993. Hanna said he was pleased with this year's turnout. Tickets were $10, and the event was sold out.
"We worked hard on [the spirit of unity] and I hope it was here," he said. "We need people to understand that there are people on both sides of every issue. Rather than hold grudges, we need to sit down and work for solutions.
"Then if we don't get our way, go on to the next thing."
The event is privately funded and organized by Hanna's minister, H.D. McCarty of University Baptist Church. It has been criticized in the past for excluding faiths other than Christianity. This year's program included Jacob Adler, director of adult education at Temple Shalom of Northwest Arkansas, as a representative of the Jewish community. Adler read Psalm 57 and prayed for the state and the nation.
Lowell Grisham, rector at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, has been a critic of the breakfast, but said he was cautiously encouraged by some aspects of this year's celebration.
"It was nice to have Jacob Adler present to represent Judaism and be the first non-Christian participant at the prayer breakfast," Grisham said. "I hope that future events can continue that hospitality to other religions."
James D. Johnson, pastor of First Christian Church, read from the Gospel of Matthew and prayed for the city and county. Others on the program included J. Wesley Hilliard, pastor of discipleship of Central United Methodist Church, and Dexter Howard of Life Harvester Church.
McCarty defended Hanna to the largely evangelical crowd for his efforts to locally establish the traditional breakfast, which began in Washington, D.C., in 1953 during President Eisenhower's administration.
Hanna has "a message of God's redemption for all -- a message not to be forced on anyone but an essential statement of who he is and what he hopes for all his citizens," McCarty said.
If the next mayor is Methodist, Catholic, Jew, Muslim, Deist, or even a nonbeliever, he would be free to share his faith with the city, McCarty said.
The governor echoed the sentiment. He expressed gratitude to the mayor "for bringing us here -- that we're not just about hobbies and spread sheets. We are who we are in our spirits."
Grisham and other ministers from the Fayetteville Ministerial Alliance have organized this year an alternative worship service for the National Day of Prayer. The event will be Thursday at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 224 N. East St., from noon to 1 p.m. and will include representatives from Buddhist, Hindu and Bahai faiths.
Similar events will continue through Thursday, the official observance of the National Day of Prayer. A 48-hour Bible read-a-thon began at noon today, and the National Day of Prayer Task Force service is scheduled for noon Thursday on the patio of the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville. St. Paul's Episcopal Church will be open for prayer from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, and a Labyrinth Prayer and Meditation Walk will be available in St. Paul's parish hall from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
A final prayer and praise service will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at Central United Methodist Church, 6 W. Dickson St., in Fayetteville.

This article was published on Wednesday, May 3, 2000

©Copyright 2000, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.

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