People of all ages across Ashtabula county paused a few minutes around noon Thursday to gather and pray in public places.
Services in Conneaut, Ashtabula and several other locations were held in observance of National Day of Prayer. Created by a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress amid the anti-Communism paranoia of the early 1950s, the event is an official day of observance in which Americans of all faiths are encouraged to pray for the nation.
In Conneaut, nearly a dozen local clergy members, along with a couple dozen observers, gathered to offer prayers for different aspects of life in the city, county and across the nation. The program was similar in Ashtabula.
The Rev. Joyce Shellhammer of First Congregation United Church of Christ led prayers for police officers. “Very few of us have the talent and wherewithal to do what they do,” she said.
The Rev. Frank Gore of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church offered prayers for military personnel, and read the names of several local men and women now in active service. “Keep them from the hate that hardens the heart,” he said.
The Rev. Roger Hogle of South Ridge Baptist Church said a blessing for schools, noting students today face numerous challenges, including classroom violence. “Our children are paying a dear price on the altar of education as we fight the issues,” he said.
Similar prayers were said for local churches, businesses, firefighters and local government leaders, each by a different clergy person.
The Rev. Scott Walsh, of New Leaf United Methodist Church, sang the national anthem and led the crowd in the event’s finale, “God Bless America.”
Ashtabula’s “Day of Prayer” brought an estimated 50 people to Lance Cpl. Kevin M. Cornelius Park. Songs, scripture verses and a long list of prayers were offered by community leaders.
The Rev. Neroy Carter, pastor emeritus of the New Hope Pentecostal Church in Ashtabula, gave the Prayer of Invocation, reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Christian singer Sherry Cornell led the crowd in the national anthem and sang a solo, “Lord You Are Good.”
She said it was “a beautiful day to worship and pray.” Levi Cole and Zachary Sanchez read scripture verses.
The Rev. Chris Bell of First United Methodist Church in Ashtabula shared a meditation on “Pressing On.” She said, “Nothing is greater than prayer. What we are today is because of someone’s prayers.”
Sixteen business, government and religious leaders then said a prayer for various aspects of Ashtabula County, the state, nation and the world.
Cornell sang, “Tell Me the Story,” and the Rev. Michael Legg of the First Church of the Nazarene gave the Benediction. The crowd sang, “God Bless America,” to close out the service.