Youths Highlight Day of Prayer At Courthouse
Hundreds of students filled the steps of the Bradford County Courthouse at noon on May 5 to participate in the National Day of Prayer, which was sanctioned via proclamation again this year by the Bradford County Commissioners just two hours earlier. The annual gathering was coordinated by former commissioner Nancy Schrader, who felt that the larger than average turnout on a sunny but blustery day vindicated the struggle to continue the event despite ongoing opposition at the national level.
“I think that galvanized a lot of people to come out in support of the event,” Schrader said in reference to the unsuccessful attempts of opponents to have the National Day of Prayer declared unconstitutional.
Schrader made opening remarks to the crowd gathered in the courthouse block of Main Street in Towanda, and Bradford County Day of Prayer 2011 honorary chairperson Joni Eareckson Tada led the audience in a recitation of an opening prayer of unison, after which second- through sixth-graders from St. Agnes Catholic School in Towanda performed “My God is an Awesome God.” In addition to the St. Agnes students, the entire student body of the North Rome Christian School (NRCS) participated in the event, except for the seniors, who were on a missions trip.
Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith shared personal remarks about the event before reading the official proclamation from the commissioners. He cited a statement found at the National Day of Prayer website that reads, “…diversity is what Congress intended when it designated the Day of Prayer, not that every faith and creed would be homogenized, but that all of us who sought to pray for this nation would be encouraged to do so in any way deemed appropriate.”
“Today in Bradford County, we continue to support that effort,” Smith stated. “We are proclaiming this day…as a day of importance, a day to be thankful, and a day to be gracious. It is a day to cast aside cynicism and encourage understanding.”
NRCS junior Austin Bedrosian took the podium next to read an excerpt from the Old Testament Book of Psalms. “It really is an awesome chapter,” Austin said of Psalm 91 to those in attendance, “so please listen to the words.” His thoughtful rendering brought a loud cheer from the crowd upon its completion.
In addition to several lay leaders, numerous spiritual leaders representing various Christian denominations offered specific prayers for various facets of government and civic entities. The Rev. Bill Klees of Community Alliance Church, for example, prayed for the federal government, including the president, members of the House and Senate, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Father Martin Boylin of St. Peter and Paul’s rectory prayed for state, county, and local leaders, and NRCS administrator Lee Ann Carmichael said a prayer for teachers and students. The Rev. Doug Abbey of New Generation Church; the Rev. Lynn Ensign, chaplain of the Bradford County sheriff’s office; the Rev. Chris Gray of Greater Valley Assembly of God Church; and the Rev. Theo Griffin of North Rome Wesleyan Church also participated in the program.
NRCS students, under the direction of first grade teacher Eileen Warburton, sang “Shine.” The St. Agnes children performed “Go Make a Difference” just before the closing prayer. They were directed by St. Agnes music teacher Sue Christian and accompanied by Sue’s husband, Joel Christian, on guitar.
“It seems to get bigger every year,” Schrader said afterwards of the number of participants. “I was very impressed.”
The involvement of youths in the event, she added, serves multiple purposes. Their participation draws large numbers of parents and grandparents who are proud to see the children perform at the courthouse.
“I think that it’s important to learn at an early age that prayer changes things,” said Schrader. “They can say it out loud or to themselves, but they need to know that they can pray anytime and anywhere.”
“Being a parochial school, prayer is a very important part of who we are, so we were happy to participate,” added St. Agnes principal Katie Dewan. Several years ago, she noted, the school’s eighth-graders walked to the courthouse to take part in the event. Consolidation by the Scranton Catholic Diocese required the school to discontinue education for seventh- and eighth-grade students since then, so St. Agnes administrators decided to send its second- to sixth-graders this year.
“It was the first time that any of them had been involved,” Dewan noted. “They were very impressed by the whole program.”
NRCS has participated in the Bradford County Day of Prayer on numerous occasions.
Schrader related that she had championed the county’s endorsement of the Day of Prayer when she served as commissioner 10 years ago and that she is delighted that the current members have chosen to maintain the backing of the event as a tradition.