GATHERING ... A crowd of some 200 people gathered downtown at Court and Third Sts. in ideal spring weather at noon on Thursday for the annual National Day of Prayer observance by the Decatur Ministerial Association. (Photo by Eric Mann)
Prayers spanning the gamut of human endeavor, good and bad, were offered at a 35-minute program at the Peace Monument in downtown Decatur during Thursday's annual National Day of Prayer. Nearly 200 people attended.
The noon event on the Adams County Courthouse square featured 11 speakers: from short welcoming remarks by Mayor John Schultz and Dr. Robert Brink, pastor of Decatur Church of God, to longer comments from nine others in the local faith community.
Schultz said it is "wonderful" that people in the United States can gather and pray publicly.
Brink called on people to "join our minds and hearts in a common goal: to praise Jesus Christ."
The first prayer offered was given by Rev. Eric Stoops of Monroe United Methodist Church, who mentioned wars and other conflicts going on in the world and called for God to "be with the men and women" in the U.S. military services as they protect the nation.
Stoops said people must "confess sins and bloodlust," then referred to the recent killing in Pakistan of Osama Bin Laden by U.S. forces as he lamented people "who cheer when someone is killed."
He stated, "Yes, there are times when it is right and just" to kill people, but, he said, cheering on such behavior is not religiously proper. Instead, said Stoops, "our tears should fall when another life is taken."
Rev. Jay Carter of Pleasant Dale Church of the Brethren delivered a prayer of repentance and confession, saying humans often "take for granted God's grace and mercy and forgiveness."
He noted that it is not just people who should seek God's forgiveness, but also corporations.
Jeremy Wetter of New Hope Church called upon U.S. military veterans in the audience to come forward, then asked for a moment of silence for all U.S. military personnel who have died in the nation's conflicts.
Wetter stated that national freedom came at a high cost of dead military service members who died in "torments and battles" and urged support for those who are serving as well as those being trained to serve.
Rev. Whitney West, pastor of Decatur Baptist Church, thanked businesses and referred to great "economic distress" locally, in Indiana, across the United States, and around the world.
He used a Biblical line about "the groaning of creation" because of economic troubles that damaged "the lives, homes, and property of many people."
West said men and women must "acknowledge our mighty, awesome, and wonderful God" and said people "bask in the many benefits of your love" and understand that God hears prayers and delivers.
West wound up saying, "Change is difficult," but with God, man can "weather change" and get through with "increased strength and character grown on an anvil of suffering."
Rev. Martha Lyon of First United Methodist Church prayed for civic and school leaders, saying they should seek direction from God in tough economic times.
She went on to pray for federal leaders, saying they are "torn in different directions" and do not always do justice. She asked for God to bring national leaders together for the good of all the people. The same applies to state leaders, she added.
Claudia Karges, executive director of Love In the Name of Christ, said many people are hurting around the world and observed, "I see it every day in my work."
She requested that people "be bold and stand fast with Christianity" and that hope be given to children, since they will be the next leaders.
Rev. Jim Compton of Salem Community Church commended the courage and strength of police and firefighters, saying they put their safety at risk to provide safety for others. Bless them, he said, and protect them.
He mentioned the recent death of the Portland fire chief and the grieving going on there.
Compton said people are often weak and fearful, so they need the courage and strength that God provides day by day.
Amber Heimann of St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church and St. Joseph Catholic School, described God as "the only one who will never disappoint us." Humans have failings, she said, but God does not.
Heimann read a long list of varied troubles affecting people and, after each one, she made the same comment: "Let us place our confidence in you, Lord."
The closing remarks were by Pastor Kevin August of New Hope Church, who thanked everyone who attended for "putting God first" by being part of the event.
He said of God, "You walk with us" and continue to bestow blessings locally, statewide, and nationally.
"Almighty Father, we love you," August concluded.