ST. GEORGE — The annual “Prayer Over the City” New Year’s Day event returned to the St. George Tabernacle as members of various faith groups came together to offer prayers on the behalf of the community for the coming year.
“This is a unique and extraordinary event we shouldn’t lose sight of,” said Rev. Jimi Kestin of Solomon’s Porch Foursquare Fellowship. Kestin was one of the original faith leaders who helped create Prayer Over the City 14 years ago.
“Prayer Over the City is special,” Kestin said, because it’s an event that brings together differing faith traditions that do not agree on points of doctrine, yet are transcending those difference through their love for the community.
“It’s unity that doesn’t require conformity.” he said.
Faith leaders from the area’s various Christian and nondenominational groups as well as members of the Jewish and Baha’i faith communities each prayed for community unity while also carrying an individual theme to each prayer.
Sixteen faith groups were represented.
The Rev. Ralph Clingan, of the Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church, prayed on behalf of the local, state and national government officials, a theme that was shared in part by Lt. Colonel David Jones, a chaplain with the U.S. Army Reserve.
Jones asked God to give the nation’s leaders wisdom in regard to the use of the military, which was the focus of his prayer.
Prayers were also offered for the community’s first responders, volunteers and teachers.
“We know teachers have a special place in our children’s lives,” Uriah Hernalsteen, of Solomon’s Porch, prayed. “Please bless the teachers to make the best decisions in the classroom.”
The Rev. Laura Hallett, of the Center for Spiritual Living, offered a prayer for “the isolated” – those in the community who feel alone, marginalized and disenfranchised.
That includes members of the LGBTQ community, the elderly and those who are disabled in some fashion, she said.
Representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was Jody Cox, president of the Washington Fields Stake. He prayed for families.
“We pray that family will be will be touched by thee,” Cox prayed, in addition to blessings of love, forgiveness, patience and other virtues to be present in homes across the city.
Over 100 people attended the event, including political figures like state Rep. Walt Brooks, R-St. George. It was the first time he attended Prayer Over the City.
“It was really nice to see all the differing faiths come together and be able to worship together for the benefit of the everybody in St. George and the Southern Utah,” he said.
Brooks also said he considered Prayer Over the City to be the epitome of religious freedoms protected under the Constitution because those present were able worship freely.
Tuesday’s event also marks the return of Prayer Over the City to the St. George Tabernacle. For the last two years the event was held at Dixie State University while the LDS church had the building renovated.
“This place is special to all of us who hold Dixie special,” Kestin said, noting that the tabernacle was one of the original buildings built after LDS settlers came to the area. The tabernacle, while used for church meetings, has also been used as a community center at times.
Kestin said he was grateful to Dixie State for allowing the St. George Interfaith Council to use its facilities for the event while the tabernacle was being renovated, but was also thankful to be back in the building.
Prayer Over the City organizers were permitted to use the tabernacle after the event had been held outdoors for a number of years. The first meeting was held 14 years ago at Pioneer Park on the Red Hill and had a handful of attendees.
Clingan, a part of the event since the beginning, joked that he recalled it being called “Prayer Over the Frozen” due to the outdoor winter chill.
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