By Felicia A. Petro/Staff writer
The sun shone during the noon hour on Thursday in time for 100 individuals to gather at Grove City Memorial Park to pray for the nation.
“It’s good for the community to come and pray freely,” said 14-year-old Ben Lilly, who joined his classmates from Grove City Christian Academy for the National Day of Prayer’s local observance.
About 30 students and teachers walked to the gathering from First Church of God on West Main Street – where GCCA houses grades 5 to 8 – to pray with others from the area.
Under President Reagan, Congress enacted the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer. However, the observance itself was enacted under President Truman in 1952.
On Thursday, thousands gathered for NDP observances all over the nation, including the nation’s capital, where the NDP Taskforce – the national organizers – was disappointed that President Obama did not host a public NDP event as President Bush had for eight years.
Grove City NDP organizer Phyllis Buchanan also didn’t favor Obama’s recent comments that the U.S. wasn’t religious.
“This has always been a Christian nation,” she said. “He’s dead wrong.”
Buchanan’s prayer is that the U.S. and all nations would become 100 percent Christian, which could only happen if Christians “talk to others about Jesus,” she noted. This is her ninth year organizing the local NDP event at the park.
Obama promised to sign a declaration for the NDP – as other presidents in the past – but opted to pray at home.
However, his administration has joined the NDP Taskforce in a fight to keep the day intact. The Freedom from Religion Foundation is suing the Obama administration and NDP Taskforce in an attempt to end the observance. The suit began when Bush was in office.
Bob Kochems, Mercer County district attorney, said he’d heard about the lawsuit but it was too “above my pay grade,” to worry about it, he said.
Essentially, it wouldn’t stop Kochems from showing up at the Grove City NDP event, although he’s an elected public figure.
“This is personal to me. I’m more here as Bob Kochems (than as the DA),” he said. “I think the nation needs prayer. ... We should take opportunities to express that publicly other than Sundays. This is a good opportunity to show it.”
Many prayers were given up by lay people and pastors at the park event.
Kim Schnelzer, a youth pastor with Shiloh Intrusion Ministries, Grove City, led the audience in a written group prayer asking for God’s forgiveness and attention.
The Rev. Dr. Solomon Armstead, of Mt. Olive Baptist Church, Pine Township, led a prayer for unity between churches.
“The church needs to wake up,” he said. “The Bible isn’t a book of suggestions but commands.”
Sandy Crouse, a Grove City mother and member of Shiloh Intrusion, prayed for families and the unborn.
“The blood of the unborn cries out from the ground,” she said.
Teresa White, a Grove City mom who formerly homeschooled her kids, and the wife of a Slippery Rock University professor, prayed for all levels of education, “and for students to reject the false and accept the truth,” she said.
Pam Schnelzer, pastor of Shiloh Intrusion, and her husband, Tom, a Pittsburgh postal worker, prayed for local, county, state and federal governments.
The Rev. John Culp of Tower Presbyterian Church, Grove City, prayed for the military, adding that the community was invited to the church at 7 p.m. the first Wednesday of every month to pray for the military and their families.
Veda Holland, associate minister of Mt. Olive, prayed about the media’s and Hollywood’s influence on the nation, and that Christian faith and truth would blossom in those arenas.
Tim Munley, associate pastor of Shiloh, and insurance company sales manager, prayed for integrity in businesses and for the nation’s economy to be restored. “Some things that are legal in the earth’s eyes are illegal with God,” he noted.
Georgia Cameron, of New Wilmington, gave prayer tips for people to invigorate their spirits through joining a church group, having a prayer partner and writing prayers in a notebook – to look back on when prayers are answered.
Also, “Pray the Word of God,” Cameron said. “It doesn’t return void.”
Paul Goodman, executive pastor for Grove City Alliance Church, closed with a prayer after encouraging those present that America’s Christian heritage is evident at the nation’s capital on buildings such as the Washington Monument, which says, “Glory to God.”
“Democracy walks hand-in-hand with religion and promotes freedom,” Goodman said. “We need God Almighty at the center.”
“It’s one nation under God,” Kochems added.
“I believe in prayer,” said Virginia Magee of Grove City. “We’re in the end times. We need God to help us."