ST. GEORGE – People from differing faiths and congregations gathered at the St. George Tabernacle New Year’s Day for the 11th annual Prayer Over the City. Prayers of support and gratitude were offered, as well as supplications asking the Almighty to help members of the community to remember to value themselves and each other.
Presented by the St. George Interfaith Council, clergy and representatives from different faith backgrounds each offered short prayers for the coming year during the hourlong event.
“I believe it gets us off to the best start for the new year,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said.
The mayor added he is grateful for the Interfaith Council’s work in the community, as well as that of those of the faiths represented and the service they render, making particular reference to the spirit of volunteerism they bring. For this, he said, they are “examples of the believers.”
Offering a prayer in support of civic officials like the mayor, Rev. Dr. Ralph Clingan, of Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church, appealed to God to continue to guide them in their roles.
“Continue to walk with them,” Clingan prayed. “With the gift of each new day, we are surrounding them with our prayers and love.”
A general theme of gratitude was also expressed in a number of prayers at the event.
Michael Kruse, of the Unitarian Unilateralist Fellowship, read poems that expressed a need to have gratitude in life as well as the will to move forward despite whatever challenge may rise in the coming year.
“In 2016, may we all have an attitude of gratitude and always be moving forward,” Kruze said.
Representing the Free Spirit Community, a new addition to Prayer Over the City, was Russell Cashin, who offered a supplication of gratitude for the land surrounding the city.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to appreciate the beauty each day,” Cashin said. “… May we remember it is a gift to us that is unique among the lands of the earth.”
Cashin also encouraged others to find and perform acts of kindness for others. The sentiment was shared by Tom Lamb, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Southern Utah Public Relations Council, and Carmella Fitzpatrick, of the Unity Center of Positive Living.
“Look to opportunities to help people, to be kinder, to be more understanding,” Lamb said. “Help us not to be so concerning with ourselves, but others.”
“That is why we are here,” Fitzpatrick said in her prayer, “to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
Prayers of gratitude and support were also offered for the city’s first responders and the military.
Chaplain David Jones, of the Utah National Guard, prayed for the love of God to be with members of the Armed Forces and their families. He prayed for those currently serving and also those who continue to fight a different battle at home as they deal with issues like post traumatic stress disorder.
Jones also asked God to preserve the lives of soldiers currently deployed.
Pastor Jonathan Hedren, of New Beginnings Christian Fellowship, thanked God in his prayer for the city’s first responders.
“We thank Thee for those we call first responders,” Hedren said. “Bless them as they place themselves in harm’s way for our benefit and good.”
Instead of an audible prayer, Rob Wilson, who represented the Society of Friends also known as the Quakers, offered up a moment of silent prayer in which he said he would ask God to impart peace on the hearts of the people as well as aid them in hearing the “still small voice of God.”
Like the Free Spirit Community, the Society of Friends is also a new addition to Prayer Over the City this year.
Closing out the event was retired American Baptist Rev. Alex Wilke, who has served the city’s faith community for over 50 years.
“May each person’s prayer be answered many times over this new year,” Wilke said during his prayer.
Prayer Over the City was originally held at Pioneer Park 11 years ago, Pike said. After a few years it relocated to the Town Square and eventually moved into the St. George Tabernacle.
Rev. Jimi Kestin, of Solomon’s Porch Foursquare Fellowship and president of the St. George Interfaith Council, helped organize the original event that has since become a New Year’s Day tradition. Addressing the congregation Friday, he said:
The people that come before you today represent a multitude of different beliefs. We want you to know, that (of) the group, not one of us has checked our deeply-held beliefs at the door. As we come before you to stand in unity for this community that we all love so much, we do so representing what we believe.
This year set a new record for attendance with an estimated 275 people present, Kestin said.
The faith leaders and representatives of congregations at Pray Over the City “each have a deep and abiding love for this community,” Kestin said. The display of various faiths at the event is also a sign of the unity and diversity among the city’s faith community, he said.
Clergy and representatives of the St. George Catholic Church, Community of Christ and Jewish Congregation Beit Chaverim also participated in Prayer Over the City.
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