Bahai News - Prayer session held - inside

Prayer session held - inside/Shortened event still draws crowd

The city's largest observance of the National Day of Prayer was reduced to the National Hour of Prayer by Thursday's wintry weather.

About 1,200 people gathered at noon inside New Life Church on the city's north side after the cold and snow forced cancellation of an all-day event at Sky Sox Stadium.

The result was a more intimate, stripped-down observance that still managed to squeeze in messages from a diverse group of speakers. Among them were evangelical Christians, a Catholic bishop, Pentecostal pastor, Jewish rabbi and Anglican priest.

"Prayer and reaching out to God doesn't have to end because it snowed outside," said Maggie Ciocci, who was to perform on a dance and flag team during the finale at Sky Sox Stadium.

A handful of other public events in the Pikes Peak region commemorated the National Day of Prayer, which was established in 1952 by Congress to recognize the importance of prayer without favoring any one religion.

The other local observances included a children's breakfast at the ministry Compassion International and an hourlong interfaith event with 35 people huddled under a gazebo south of the Pioneers Museum in downtown Colorado Springs.

Speakers at that event included a Buddhist, Jewish cantor, Catholic nun, Baha'i, Lutheran and others.

The event that was moved inside New Life has quickly grown into one of the largest prayer day observances in the country, organizers say.

The event is sponsored by the Net, a coalition of evangelical churches, and other churches. As many as 9,000 people attended previous observances at Memorial Park.

The move to Sky Sox Stadium was made because of construction at the park. The decision to cancel Thursday's eight-hour outdoor observance was made at 6 a.m. when organizers went to the ballpark and found 3 inches of snow, said New Life pastor Ted Haggard. The change was hastily broadcast on local radio and TV stations.

During the abbreviated service, people who did come sang, swayed and raised their hands to the heavens in prayer for the nation, city and their political leaders.

Each speaker, their faces and titles splashed onto a big screen in the auditorium, covered different themes:

The Rev. James McMearn of New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church spoke of breaking down divisions over gender, race, ethnicity, politics and religion.

Bishop Richard Hanifen of the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs pleaded for peace and forgiveness.

Rabbi Howard Hirsch of the Center for Christian-Jewish Dialogue urged people to join together and banish hatred and bigotry.

After an hour, the Rev. Calvin Johnson of Solid Rock Church provided a close to a National Day of Prayer event: "God bless America," he said, "land that we love."

- Eric Gorski covers religion and nonprofit groups and may be reached at 636-0304 or gorski@gazette.com


©Copyright 2001, Montreal Gazette

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