A CELEBRATION OF DIVERSITY
By LORETTA FULTON
Prayers said and sung, poems, including one that traveled to the moon, the beating of a Native American drum, and a ceremony of “breaking bread together in peace” added to the mosaic of the National Day of Prayer Service sponsored by the Abilene Interfaith Council.
The service was held at noon Thursday at the Center for Contemporary Arts, with speakers from eight faith traditions offering prayers. Two others, representing Islam and Buddhism, were not present.
The service ended with the passing of loaves of challah bread made by Gay Beitscher of Abilene’s Temple Mizpah. Abilene Interfaith Council President Jacob Snowden noted that the motto of the council is “Let Us Break Bread Together in Peace.”
“Today, we get to use our motto literally,” he said.
His hope was that even though people may have come as strangers, the would “leave as friends” or at least “friendly.”
The gathering of people offering prayers from many faith traditions on the National Day of Prayer is a testament to the heart of the United States Constitution. Omer Hancock, a retired Hardin-Simmons University religion professor, gave a brief history of National Day of Prayer and noted that the first freedom guaranteed in the Bill of Rights is freedom of religion.
Those 10 guarantees in the Bill of Rights also include freedom of speech and the freedom for people to assemble peaceably. Thursday’s gathering included three of the 10 rights guaranteed by the Constitution, Hancock noted. And, he said, people gathered would do well not to take those rights for granted.
A National Day of Prayer was established as law in 1952, although national prayers date to 1775 when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to prayer for wisdom in forming a nation. The first Thursday of May was named the official observance day in 1988.
Faith traditions represented at Thursday’s service were Anglican (Episcopal) Karen Boyd, Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest; Baha’i, Sammie Garza; Roman Catholic, Dason Williams, Holy Family Catholic Church; Judaism, April Powers; New Thought Spirituality, Natalie Messer, Unity Spiritual Living Center; Norse Pagan, Avalon Santana Zakazakina; Protestant, Stephanie Hamm; Native American, Icie Mitchell.
“Faith is a path,” Hancock said in his introduction, and it involves the practice of praying.
Mitchell, methodically tapped a ceremonial drum as she recited the “Prayer to the Creator in the Shape of a Buffalo,” sung in the Lakota language.
Messer, representing New Thought Spirituality, read two poems, including one that made it to the moon. A copy of “I Am There” was hand delivered to the moon in 1971 by astronaut James B. Irwin on Apollo 15. The poem was written by James Dillet Freeman, poet laureate of the Unity School of Christianity.
“Do you need me?” the poem begins. “I am there.”
Poet Maya Angelou also was quoted. Hamm, representing Protestanism, read Angelou’s prayer which begins, “Father, Mother, God, thank you for your presence during the hard and mean days.” The prayer ends with the words,
“Dear Creator, You, the borderless
sea of substance, we ask you to give to all the
world that which we need most—Peace.”