ST. GEORGE – Community religious leaders and congregants came together New Year’s Day at the St. George Tabernacle to usher in 2013.
Over 100 people attended the 8th annual Prayer Over the City, convening at noon Tuesday. Included were 16 individual representatives of various faith-traditions at the interfaith event. Community leaders such as City of St. George Mayor Dan McArthur were also in attendance.
“We’re very supportive of our faith groups,” McArthur said. Faith-based groups represent everyone, he said, and added that cities need more interfaith events like Pray Over the City to unite communities.
“What a joy to gather together,” said Pastor Jimi Kestin of Solomon’s Porch Foursquare Fellowship. “We know the prayers and affirmations given today will have a real meaning in the coming year.”
Kestin also said the attendance at the event showed how people in St. George recognize the importance of faith, especially since they came out on a holiday when they could have stayed home instead. “That says something about our city,” he said.
While there were different faiths and denominations represented at the prayer event, Kestin said each person entered “confident and secure in how (they) see God.”
There is no competition between faiths, he said, but rather a commonality of purpose. “It is important that we stand together in unity,” Kestin said.
He also expressed his gratitude toward the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for allowing Prayer Over the City to take place in the St. George Tabernacle.
The various ministers assembled offered prayers for the new year that centered around various themes.
Rev. Dr. Ralph Clingan, of Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church, offered a prayer for the leaders in local, state and national government, and asked God to provide them with His vision and light.
A thankful prayer for the safety of those who served in the Armed Forces was given by Pastor Dean Heuring, of St. George Community Church, who also asked God to give leadership at the Pentagon “wisdom and discernment.”
Rickine Kestin, wife of Jimi Kestin, said she was grateful for the chance to provide meals to the needy each Sunday at Solomon’s Porch Foursquare, and prayed for God to “allow us to see what you see” when aiding the less fortunate.
Jim Hetrick, counselor to the pastor of St. George Community of Christ Church, prayed concerning education, asking for the Almighty to bless teachers and the children they taught with security and safety as he referenced the recent Newtown, Conn., tragedy.
Youth Pastor Jason Smith, Harvest Community Church, followed Hetrick and said he has worked with youth around the world. “The youth of the world have more similarities than differences,” he said. Though worlds apart in some cases, the challenges they face are universal. He prayed for divine protection for the youth against harm caused by the deeds of evil men, as well as the indifference of good men.
Representing the Jewish community was Rise Bausch of Congregation Biet Charyarim, who prayed for a general blessing to be upon the people, the community and its leaders.
Pastor Bill Morganti, New Covenant Christian Center, made the St. George area’s first responders the subject of his prayer. “Day and night they serve us, Lord,” he said. “Watch over them and keep them safe.”
Morganti also prayed that the public would better recognize and appreciate the sacrifices first responders make in order to keep others safe and well.
Sheila Smith, First Reader, Christian Science Society, prayed for unity. “We rejoice in the unity of humanity,” she said, what unites people is their shared identity as children of God. “All equal, all blessed, and all worthy,” she said.
Retired Baptist minister, Rev. Alex Wilke, gave the closing prayer and said it is the responsibility of everyone to look after the area, and not just the leaders.
Wilke, Jimi Kestin said, has served the community for 50 years, and has mentored many leaders of St. George’s faith community during that time.
“He has become a pastor to the pastors of the community,” he said.
Wilke has been involved with Prayer Over the City for the last seven years and has traditionally closed the meeting. He said the interfaith event was evidence the community “sees itself as a whole and not one group … we’re all moving toward the kingdom.”
With the conclusion of Wilke’s remarks, Jimi Kestin brought the event to a close.
“On behalf of all of us in the faith community,” he said, “have a blessed and happy New Year.”
Other faith leaders in attendance at Prayer Over the City were: Deacon John Gorman, St. George Catholic Church; Tom Lamb, LDS Public Affairs Council; Pastor Diego Delgado, Iglesia de Dios de la Profecia; Rev. Michael Chamness, Shepherd of the Hills United Methodist Church; Carmella Fitzpatrick, Unity Center for Positive Thinking; and Marlene Deal, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
Local officials present at the event included St. George City Council members Jon Pike and Gail Bunker, and Utah House Rep. Don Ipson.
Copyright St. George News, StGeorgeUtah.com Inc., 2012, all rights reserved.