In praise of freedoms

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Al Key/DRC
The crowd waves their American flags as the Robby Wright Family sings "God Bless the USA" during the National Day of Prayer at the Courthouse on the Square Thursday May 1, 2014, in Denton.
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Residents of many faiths convene for National Day of Prayer

Hundreds of people came — from homes and government offices, schools and businesses, Christian churches and Jewish ministries, the military, police and fire stations — to lift up special prayers Thursday at the Courthouse on the Square as part of the 63rd National Day of Prayer.

It was one of two services in Denton, with a second interfaith service held Thursday evening at First United Methodist Church of Denton.

This year, individuals were asked to make prayers for their specific areas of interest, instead of having just ministers leading the prayers as in the past, said Dorothy Smith, coordinator for the Denton County National Day of Prayer.

Prayers were led by a rabbi, a state representative, a military veterans service officer, the Denton police chief, local pastors, a high school senior, a high school principal, a business owner and a radio host.

“It was just effective to have people in the area to pray for that area … because they have a heart for what they’re praying for,” Smith said.

National Day of Prayer is held on the first Thursday in May to invite “people from all faiths to pray for the nation,” according to its website.

“It’s very heartwarming to have this many people come together,” Smith said. “I think it pulled them together. I really do. You realize you’re not alone out there. It just really unites the community.”

A cloudless blue sky, the bright sun and a light breeze were the backdrop for Thursday’s noontime prayer service on the downtown Square.

As people began to gather shortly before noon, members of the Liberty Christian School Praise Band and the Robby Wright Family sang songs of praise to God.

“For his name is glorious,” a group of singers sang. “Hallelujah.”

People from various faiths, age groups and walks of life gathered for Thursday’s event. Some sat in lawn chairs, some sat on the lawn, and others stood. Some came alone while others brought their children, some in strollers, and even pets. As people joined in prayer, some bowed their heads; one woman elevated her right hand to the heavens. Most prayers offered up Thursday afternoon were rooted in Christian tradition.

Offered to attendees were Bibles, white wooden yard crosses and miniature American flags. People were asked to wave their flags when they agreed with words spoken during the event.

It was something new for Ronnie Pegram of Denton, who was attending the local National Day of Prayer service for the first time.

“I think it’s a great thing,” she said. “We are a diverse nation, and that is something that I was impressed with today is that it showed the diversity of America. I’d never heard a Jewish prayer so that was eye-opening to me.”

She said prayer is what keeps her going.

“No matter what your situation is in life, there’s always that hope and belief that things will get better,” Pegram said. “God says that we are to pray … and I believe this National Day of Prayer represents what we are to do.”

Hank Scheible of Denton said he’s attended the annual prayer service almost every year. Prayer is something he said he can’t live without — it’s his way of communicating with God.

He said it was exciting to see people “abandon” the things that can sometimes divide them to come together for prayer.

“It’s encouraging to me to see this many people interested across denominational lines,” Scheible said. “Everybody came out here today just to praise God, and that’s what’s exciting about this.”

Students from Texas Education Centers in Denton who attended the event said they enjoyed it and that it made them appreciate the religious freedoms in America. They said they were amazed to see so many people come together for prayer.

Smith said she hopes people who attended the service are reminded of the freedoms afforded to them in America and the opportunity to pray openly.

“I’m just grateful that we have the opportunity in our nation to do something like this … [to] have the freedom to come together and have an appreciation for our God,” she said. “That’s why we pray.”

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.


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