The Faith Community of Newton County is being called to a time of prayer this evening, Sept. 13, 2015. This is the annual time of prayer called, “The Community on Our Knees.” It will happen at the very heart of Covington, the Square. The Prayer Service starts at 7 p.m. with Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston welcoming those who have gathered. This is the fourth year the community as gathered for “The Community on Our Knees.”
Over the past decades there has been much controversy about the place of prayer in our society. One of the latest examples being the group that has challenged the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech for having chaplains for their football teams, even though no public funds are involved. Another example has been the removal of prayer from our schools. This special time of prayer is an expression of our First Amendment rights.
This is a time that reaches over all that divides us within the faith community and brings us to a very special time together. We will open our hearts and lift our prayers for our community at large. This is a witness to the place for prayer in our community.
Fall brings a time of beginnings for our community. As school starts back it is a very opportune time for us to renew our faith and express our support for those who serve our community. It is not so much a debate with those who oppose prayer, but a call to those who believe in prayer to join together.
The news has been filled with stories in the last few months of those who serve as law officers being shot while on duty. There have been stories of violence in our schools and on the streets of this nation. This time of prayer is a witness of our solidarity with our students, our school personal, our law officers, other first responders, our city and county leaders, and all others who serve us.
Have you ever thought, “What can I do in face of what is happening in our world and our nation”? One thing you can do is gather with us tonight at the Square to witness to our faith that we are one nation under God. We will gather to show our unity as a community.
The Square will be closed down to traffic at 6:15 p.m., and starting at 6 p.m. the Prayer Station will be open in the center of the Square. There you will find prayer books available to write payers in. Available also will be bookmarks with the prayers from the service. There are for people to take with them as reminder to continue in prayer throughout the year.
The Praise Band from the Prospect United Methodist Church will play as people gather for the service. You are urged to bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit on. The band will also play throughout the service between the various times of prayer.
At 6:45 p.m. there will be a Pep Rally from the Sheriff’s Department for its effort “No Text and Drive.” Distracted driving is a growing problem in our community and the nation.
Following the welcome by Covington’s Mayor Johnston at 7 p.m. there will be seven periods of prayer, each having its own unique focus.
The first led by the Rev. Josh Roberts of the Allen Memorial United Methodist Church in Oxford. The focus of this time will be for the Pastors, the staffs, the members and families of all the churches of our community.
Judge Samuel Ozburn of the Alcovy Judicial Circuit will lead a time that blesses the officials of our cities and our county. These will include mayors, city council members, county commissioners, judges and employees of the county and cities. Also included in this time will be any who are running for office this year.
Charles Lawrence from the Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church will come to the stage to lead a time to lift those who protect our community. These include the fire departments, the police forces, the sheriff’s office, and the EMS personnel. Included in this time will be the veterans and active military.
Area youth pastors will lead three other times of prayer. Those youth pastors are Chad Hambrick from the Abiding Grace Lutheran Church, Jason Williams from the Solid Rock Baptist Church and Dan Walden from the First Presbyterian Church of Covington.
One session will focus on all those connected with our schools. From the students to the teachers, the administrators to the members of the Board of Education, the bus drivers to the custodial staff. It takes a dedicated team to shape our future through education.
Another period of time will deal with the issue of bullying. The victims are usually without voice. We will seek to show them that this community cares. Another focus will be for hope and healing for those with issues of addiction, mental illness, sickness, and broken families.
Rev. Dr. Doug Gilreath of the Covington First United Methodist Church will lead the final session that will focus on building even stronger the unity of our community. There will be a blessing for all types of families including those blessed with two parents, the single parents, grandparents raising children, and foster families. There will also be prayers seeking for the building of bridges between economic groups and the races.
I firmly believe that prayer makes a difference. Perhaps the greatest difference is in how we see each other. How we grow in our appreciation for all those that make such a difference in our community. So was the point when Soren Kierkegaard said, “Prayer does not change God but changes the one who prays.”
At the end of our formal time together there will be pastors and other church staff scattered around the Square to pray with those seeking individual prayer. You are invited and encouraged to come to this very special time tonight.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.