One city, under God
The theme of this year's National Day of Prayer is "One Voice United in Prayer," and locals will have several opportunities Thursday to join together in a spirit of fellowship and reflection.
The city of Sanford, along with the YMCA, Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce and several religious institutions, have planned a full day of activities in line with the national observance, beginning with the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. (doors open at 7 a.m.) at the Harper Center at First Presbyterian Church, 203 Hawkins Ave., Sanford.
Sanford Mayor Chet Mann said that in his remarks, he will touch on the history of the National Day of Prayer, which originated with the Continental Congress and became official in 1952 with a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Harry Truman. Given the challenges Sanford is facing, including a recent spate of violent crime, Mann said, "this is a perfect time to keep the day of prayer alive" locally.
"A strong community is usually one of faith," the mayor said, adding, "to reach our goals, heal our families, and solve our problems, faith has to be part of the solution."
Scheduled to speak in addition to Mann are the Rev. Ronald Stoker of First Presbyterian, the Rev. Linda Smith of First Calvary Baptist Church and the Rev. Iris Jordan of Fair Promise AME Zion Church. The Rev. Hector La Chapelle of St. Stephen the First Martyr Catholic Church will deliver the keynote address.
At noon, the Rev. Bruce MacInnes of Turner’s Chapel Church will lead a community prayer ceremony at the flags next to the War Memorial on the lawn of the Sanford Municipal Center. Mann and others will speak at the program, which is open to all.
"There is usually a good number of people who come," MacInnes said. "I ask the pastors in attendance to come up ... , [and] each one of them leads in prayer."
The nation is in great need of God's guidance, the pastor said, which he intends to ask for during the observance.
"More than anything else, I expect God to hear us," MacInnes said. "I know he listens when his people call upon him."
At 5:30 p.m., an evening vespers service will begin at Depot Park in downtown Sanford, featuring liturgical music, readings and prayer. Bob Bridwell, who is transitioning from Sanford-Lee County planning director to Catholic deacon, described vespers as "a traditional, liturgical prayer service, generally done toward sunset."
The Rev. Timothy Martin of Trinity Lutheran Church, the Rev. Craig Lister of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, along with local vocalist Jessica Traversino, will join Bridwell in performing the service. The vespers will involve a good amount of call and response, Bridwell said, "so there's a lot of participation."
Referring to all of the city activities throughout the day, Bridwell added, "We're trying to make this a truly ecumenical event this year; everyone is involved, and that's a good thing." Those planning to attend vespers are urged to bring a blanket or chair for seating.
At 6:30 p.m., Senior Pastor Brian Parker will lead a prayer service at New Hope Baptist Church, 3007 Beechtree Drive, Sanford, that is open to all.
"We've put together a community choir with people from several different churches," Parker said, People in attendance will be praying for state and national leaders, according to the pastor, and will have time to divide into small groups to pray for local leaders.
The entire service is expected to last an hour, and Parker said the time of worship and asking for God's "wisdom and favor" ideally will foster a sense of unity.
"Hopefully, it'll be a great time of togetherness for Lee County residents," he said.