First Baptist Church of Morganton hosted the communitywide National Day of Prayer service on Thursday, May 6, featuring speakers from several Burke County churches across denominations.
In addition to faith leaders, the service featured local teachers, business owners and other community members praying for different aspects of community life. Although the service officially began at noon, music from the Celebration Church Praise Team could be heard as well over 100 people gathered on the church’s south lawn.
The service began with the presentation of the colors by Freedom High School JROTC and Rabbi Andy Meyerson of Congregation Beth Shiloh Messianic Synagogue blowing the shofar, a traditional Jewish call to prayer. Willette McIntosh and Edward Bland lent their singing talents to the service, McIntosh performing a passionate rendition of the national anthem and Bland singing “America the Beautiful.”
The Rev. David Doster of Gateway Bible Church welcomed the congregation, thanked the National Day of Prayer committee for its work putting the service together, and offered the afternoon’s opening prayer for unity.
“While there are many challenges that confront us as a people, nation and a community, we find our hope and strength in your Gospel,” Doster prayed, citing the Apostle Paul’s words from Ephesians that Christ’s sacrificial death has broken down the dividing walls of hostility between different groups of people.
Over the next 30 minutes, eight more Burke County faith and community leaders offered prayers for several different aspects of community and national life.
Unity was a central theme of the afternoon, with several speakers calling on Christians to put aside differences and come together.
“Help us to lay aside the debates over finer points of doctrine,” said the Rev. Dr. Tom Bland, senior minister of First Baptist Church. “Help us to lay aside the worship wars and the culture wars and all the other wars and help us, at long last, just to be your people.”
Offering prayers for national, state and local officials was another theme of the afternoon. Several leaders prayed for wisdom and justice to prevail at every level of government.
“When the righteous reign, the people rejoice,” said the Rev. Dr. George Logan of New Day Christian Church. “So, we pray for boldness that they would do what is right. We pray for wisdom that they would know what is right. We pray that they would have the integrity to stay with what is right and that you would grant them the humility to hear what is right.”
Master Sgt. Michael Logan added a prayer for members of the military, first responders, law enforcement officers and other public servants.
“We thank you for our troops, our first responders and our law enforcement officers,” Logan said. “Thank you for their sacrifices and their families’ sacrifices.”
A third central theme of the afternoon was a call for a bold Christian witness in every sphere of life. Thedy Bowman, a teacher at Patton High School, called for Christians to display courage in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have been too complacent, quiet, and fearful of the consequences of taking a stand for what is right and holy in this volatile political and socio-economic climate that is foolishly based on the precept that a government made of man could possibly be our salvation,” she said.
Bowman cited her belief that there has been “a great falling away” in recent years and called on herself and her fellow educators to “proclaim the truth, which is Jesus Christ in all that we say and do.”
Kellie Surrat, who prayed for the media, called for Christians in the media “to shape media coverage that will report both good news and ‘the good news.’”
“Let there be light in every dark place where the weapons of the enemy have formed to deceive, twist truth and bring false reality,” Surrat prayed.
The service closed with middle school student Emmitt LaBelle playing “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes.
Well after the service officially ended, dozens remained on the lawn, soaking up the abundant late spring sunshine. The Rev. Jerry Gamble, pastor of Mount Home Baptist Church, who attended the service, summed it up, saying he felt relieved to finally be able to gather with others to pray after a year that saw so many events canceled or limited to virtual platforms.