Prayers of hope, unity in community in new year at ‘Prayer Over the City’

ST. GEORGE – Prayers for unity, guidance and protection were offered by representatives of various faith groups during the 13th annual “Prayer Over the City” event held New Year’s Day.

Over 100 people gathered at the Delores Doré Eccles Fine Arts Center on the campus of Dixie State University Monday to hear prayers covering various aspects of the community, from a prayer for government officials and first responders, to prayers for the youth and teachers, soldiers and veterans.

A man prays at the “Prayer Over the City” event in St. George. During the event, members of different faiths offer short prayers of hope and unity for the community in the coming year, St. George, Utah, Jan. 1, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“It’s such a wonderful part of our New Year’s celebration,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said.

If there were three items he would pray for in the new year, and he will be, Pike said, it would be for unity, kindness and compassion, and mutual respect between all members of the community.

The event seeks to promote a sense of unity that does not require a uniformity of thought and belief, said the Rev. Jimi Kestin, co-pastor of Solomon’s Porch Foursquare Fellowship.

“This event is meant to start the new year to show that people can stand together, that they can transcend the differences we have,” Kestin said.

From his own experience, when different people come together, not only do problems get solved, but the outcome is also better, said Washington County Commissioner Zach Renstrom, who attended Monday’s event.

“This is a great opportunity for these differing faith groups to come together and in unity and to ask a supreme god to help us all to come together in unity,” Renstrom said.

When Prayer Over the City was started 13 years ago by Kestin and the St. George Interfaith Council, it originally met outdoors at Pioneer Park by the Dixie Rock and then the grassy field by what is now the St. George Town Square. It then found an indoor – and warmer – home inside the St. George Tabernacle.

The Rev. Alex Wilke, a retired American Baptist minister, speaks at the 2018 “Prayer Over the City” event, St. George, Utah, Jan. 1, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

With renovations being made to the Tabernacle since 2015, the event was able to move to the campus of Dixie State.

There are longtime members and newcomers to the event, Kestin said, noting the addition of the Baha’i faith this year.

Each year representatives of the various faiths also have the opportunity to make a request as to the particular topic they wish to pray for prior to the event, Kestin said.

Laura Fairchild, representing the St. George Baha’i community, shared a prayer for unity, asking God to “unite the hearts” of the people while also asking for aid in following a righteous path.

Pastor Jonathan Hendren, of the New Beginnings Christian Fellowship, prayed for the safety for first responders and their families. He also asked that first responders be given the respect they are due, as they are the ones who run toward danger and tragedy while others run from it.

“I think it’s an amazing thing,” Hendren said of the event. “I’m glad to be a part of that. … There are many things that do need prayer. We need the touch of God upon our lives … and in our community. We need his help, we need his blessings.”

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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