ST. GEORGE – Members of the city’s faith community gathered at the St. George Tabernacle for the ninth annual Prayer Over the City interfaith event Wednesday. Short prayers and speeches were offered by local faith leaders promoting continued community unity for the coming year. The event, arranged by the St. George Interfaith Council, also honored outgoing Mayor Dan McArthur.
“We come from diverse a group as any,” said Rev. Jimi Kestin, pastor at Solomon’s Porch Foursquare Fellowship and president of the Interfaith Council, as he addressed the gathering. While the event is meant to promote unity and overall unity within the city, Kestin said, those in attendance did not set aside their own cherished beliefs to do so.
Instead, he said, “we come together with one thing in common, and that is a deeply held love for this community.”
Honoring the mayor
Before the prayers for divine providence over the city began, the Interfaith Council honored the mayor.
“All of us have enjoyed the leadership you have provided, Mayor,” said Tim Martin, a member of the Southern Utah Public Affairs Council of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as he presented McArthur with a plaque.
It was related by Rev. Ralph Clingan, a former president of the Interfaith Council, that McArthur has attended the last eight Prayer Over the City events, and also helped eventually move it into the St. George Tabernacle. The event had been outdoors in previous years amid chilly weather and “the frozen tundra,” Clingan said jokingly.
“I’m hoping over the years (Prayer Over the City) will expand exponentially,” McArthur said, and remarked on the Interfaith Council: “This group is one that brings so much to our community. We are blessed in this community to have these faith leaders.”
McArthur then invited Mayor-elect Jon Pike up to the stand and said, “we leave the city in good hands.”
“The mayor has set a high bar,” Pike said.
Prayers offered for the coming year touched upon myriad subjects.
Sheila Smith, of the Christian Science Society, prayed for unity and peace in the community. She asked God to bless the city with one mind and heart, and prayed that hate and malice would not be found in it.
A representative of the St. George Catholic Church, Bob Parks, prayed for the city’s faith and civic leaders.
“Extend your grace to our civic servants,” Parks said. “Bless our bishops, priests and ministers, and all who serve as our shepherds.”
Education was the topic of a prayer offered by Jim Hetrick of the Community of Christ, asking for divine aid to be with the teachers who he said had the prized role of educators and role models for students.
Salee Amina, listed as an ambassador of goodwill for Islamic culture, said: “(St. George) is a beautiful place filled with good people.”
Amina took the opportunity to share points of Islamic teachings and read a passage from the Koran, saying that all those who believe in God and work righteousness shall have their reward.
“Just be good,” Amina said.
Members of the military and their families, as well as those who help them in various capacities, were the focus of the prayer offered by U.S. National Guard Chaplain David Jones. Jones serves not only the local until of the National Guard, but all military units based in and around the area.
A prayer for the city’s medical and health care workers was offered by Rise Bausch of Congregation Biet Charyarim, St. George’s Jewish faith community. She prayed that God would bless and protect the medical community of St. George. She specifically thanked the cardiac unit at Dixie Regional Medical Center who treated her husband for a heart attack last year.
This Prayer Over the City will be Bausch’s last in St. George, she announced. She and her husband are moving to Florida soon. She thanked the Interfaith Council for all of its support, and asked the gathering as a whole to continue to support the city’s Jewish community.
Additional prayers were offered, asking for divine guidance and protection to be with city government, the youth of the city and its emergency responders. Other prayers focused on an improving economy, a plea for patience and kindness, the homeless, and local nonprofits that serve the community.
“Today, we enter 2014 with a prayer for our city and a desire for fellowship,” retired American Baptist minister Rev. Alex Wilke said. Wilke, who closed the event, has served the city’s faith community since moving to St. George over 50 years ago.
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