SIDNEY – Community and religious leaders called on Americans to love each other during Shelby County’s celebration of the National Day of Prayer on Thursday at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Sidney.
The theme of the 2019 National Day of Prayer, an annual tradition since 1952, was inspired by the Biblical scripture of John 13:34: “Love one another. Just as I have loved you.”
“Does loving each other mean we agree all the time? As a matter of a fact, probably it doesn’t mean we agree all the time,” keynote speaker Bill Halter, the pastor at Aley United Methodist Church in Beavercreek, said. “In fact, it’s better exhibited when we don’t agree but we can still walk together hand in hand loving one another.”
Shelby County’s celebration, which dates back more than 30 years, brought together residents from throughout the county. Students from Anna, Christian Academy, Fairlawn, Jackson Center and Lehman Catholic high schools combined to provide music including songs “How Great Thou Art” and “I Sing Because I’m Happy.”
“We will always be greater in unity than we will be by ourselves,” Tilda Phlipot said.
The National Day of Prayer, observed annually on the first Thursday in May, is celebrated in all 50 states. In 2018 an estimated 50,000 gatherings took place across the nation.
“Lord, we ask you to help us to choose love,” Deanna Stienecker said.
Leaders offered prayers throughout the hour-long service at St. John’s Lutheran Church including prayers for Americans to love one another; for the church in America to love one another; for families, workplaces and communities to love one another and for all ethnicities and people in America to love one another.
“Teach us God how to love one another,” Lori Clinehens said.
Every president beginning with Harry S. Truman has signed a proclamation for the National Day of Prayer since it was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress and signed into law by Truman.
“Dear God, we thank you and praise you for all the blessings that you have bestowed on these United States of America,” Tony Bornhorst said. “We ask for your continued blessing and protection.”
While there is division across much of the country, Mark Kaufman called on Christians to follow the example of Jesus and choose to love their neighbors.
“What Jesus is telling us in the Scriptures is that as Christ followers we are to be different,” Kaufman said. “We are to love like he loves.”
During his keynote address, Halter discussed the potential schism in the United Methodist Church over the denomination’s stance on same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues and prayed that the members of the church will be able to reconcile their differences.
“We’re in a fight, and it breaks my heart because I have friends on both ends of that spectrum whom I love,” Halter said. “They’re my friends, and we need each other whether we agree or disagree. That’s what love is, my friends, humbling ourselves. Now I’m pretty adamant about what I believe and I share that with my friends whom I love dearly, but they love me and they’re pretty adamant about what they believe. We don’t need to argue or hurt each other. We need to agree to disagree and walk hand in hand as God calls us to do.”
For more information on the National Day of Prayer, visit nationaldayofprayer.org.
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