Local pastors see opportunity for unity in day of prayer

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

GREENCASTLE -- Discussions of Christianity are all too often pocked by points of separation and difference. People tend to focus on what makes denominations different, what unites them.

For a group of ministers here in Putnam County, this is not a problem. For several years, this loose group of clergy has been meeting twice a month, fellowshipping, praying and enjoying what one of them calls "shared social ministry."

"This is not an official organization; it's an informal gathering," said Paul Champion of First Christian Church in Greencastle. "We do not, as a group, take specific doctrinal stances."

"This came out of a mutual support for one another and being able to show some unity in the county," said P.T. Wilson of Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church.

The group meets with no specific agenda. Rather than focus on doctrine, they simply share their lives, pray for one another and for one another's congregations.

"It's just helpful to have a sympathetic ear and to have someone who understands what you're going through," said Mark Miller of Greencastle Christian Church.

Miller has been with GCC for 29 years and remembers a time when that sort of unity and understanding in a "ministerial association" was difficult to find.

"There was a lot more sitting around talking about differences," Miller recalled. "I found it to be a negative thing for me.

"In this group, the emphasis is on fellowship, caring about one another, sharing with one another," he said.

Wilson credits some of the change to new clergy coming into the community. While Miller, Alan Barber of Peace Lutheran and Bill Wieland of St. Andrew's Episcopal are long-serving members of the community, many of their comrades have come to the community in the last several years.

"There's a good feeling of 'Let's meet each other and see what we can do,'" Wilson said.

"We emphasize the common instead of the differences," Champion added.

Out of this fellowship and sharing has come a spirit of collaboration absent among the clergy of many communities. One tangible effect of this collaboration will be seen in Thursday's National Day of Prayer events in Greencastle.

While the day has been observed nationwide since it became law in 1952, it is all too often an event observed by individual churches or by which certain churches and doctrines are separated from others.

"In the last three counties I've served in, the National Day of Prayer became a litmus test as to whether you believed in certain social issues," Wilson said. "It's not like that here. That's a positive, and it's unique in central and southern Indiana."

Randy McNeely of First Baptist Church in Greencastle echoed Wilson's thoughts, saying he had previously been in only one community with ministers who collaborated in this way.

Here in Greencastle, National Day of Prayer will be observed in three different times and locations. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., First Christian Church at 110 S. Indiana St. will host a number of prayer stations at which individuals may move freely and pray at their leisure.

From noon to one, there will be a time of prayer at the Robe-Ann Park bandshell.

Finally, community members are invited to the Putnam County Courthouse from 7 to 8 p.m. for a time of prayer featuring ministers from a number of local congregations. The event will feature prayer times focused on praise and reverence, personal responsibility and a celebration of God's goodness.

Of the final event, Miller expressed his thanks to the commissioners for being so willing to grant the use of the courthouse.

"One thing I've been appreciative of is the commissioners allowing us to use the courthouse. They didn't even bat an eye," Miller said. "I'm just glad they made it available to us."

Thanks for the event should also go to the ministers and the bonds they have formed through their shared meetings.

"Having that relationship allows you to extend that to this National Day of Prayer event and to community outreach projects," Miller said. "These kinds of things are healthy. We can share the love of Christ together."

Like the bi-monthly meetings, they see Thursday's event as a chance not to highlight difference and controversy, but a time to share.

"It's not a protest. It's not political. It's just prayer -- God's people coming together to pray," Miller said.

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  • Is that Thursday,like tomorrow the 6th or next thursday of next year!

    -- Posted by mothersue on Wed, May 5, 2010, at 12:52 PM
  • mothersue: it is tomorrow. My pastor announced it at church this past Sunday. Banner-Graphic also states it in the article about the judge from Wisconsin declaring it unconstitutional.

    -- Posted by cll on Wed, May 5, 2010, at 1:19 PM
  • Just a thought on why some are concerned. This is day of Christian prayer which is fine but call it that. No effort was made to reach out to the non Christian community here in Putnam County. Yes they do exist. If we are going to have a day of Prayer then lets have a day that includes other religions. If we are going to have a day of Christian prayer lets call it that. That way it is set up now prayer is only for the Christians in our community. Were other groups invited and declined then that is different. I would like to know

    -- Posted by adifferentview on Wed, May 5, 2010, at 3:14 PM
  • To adifferentview, I to use to wonder about other religions and after searching near and far I found that most religions all beleive in Jesus as our savior. This is Christianity no matter what religion or Church it is.The prayer day is a gathering of all who beleive in God and love him. We also Love everyone, including those who do not beleive in him. We pray for all in the world to find the grace of God in their hearts to live as God lived and Love all as he Loved. This was very hard for me coming being X military, a person can build a great deal of absolute hate and anger towards some others, but by praying and studying the Bible,I have had all that hate removed from my body and it has been filled with the Love and grace from God, my prayer will be in thanks for all the blessings he has given me, I hope to be praying with you also!

    -- Posted by b7m7g61 on Wed, May 5, 2010, at 9:05 PM
  • I think you are missing the point or I said it poorly. My point was that yes all Christians believe in Christ but people of other faiths do not. We have Jewish and Muslim members of our community. We also have people that believe in Eastern Religions'. None of them are part of this celebration. None of them would probably say Christ is their lord Again there is nothing wrong with it but let's call it what it is a Christian Day of Prayer. The way it is now we are continuing the stereotype that all of the community is Christian or only Christian prayer matters. Not one minister talks about non Christian prayer on that day this is a day of Christian prayer and others are not part of it. Yes as a Christian I will be there to pray but others will not because their faith is not part of it. As a person of faith I will pray for them and that they will find the way. As a person that lives in a open society I realize I have not included them. Will our city leaders be there at least one of them are not of the Christian faith and run other religious organizations does that matter. Does he support this being at the park. I wonder his views on it. To those that do not believe they can stay away but it is either a day of Christian prayer or a day of prayer for all faiths. Christianity is not all faiths.

    -- Posted by adifferentview on Wed, May 5, 2010, at 10:28 PM
  • b7...This tradition began approx. 58 years ago. I believe all religions are called to take time to pray on this day. Especially during the times we are in now, it is important that all people who pray, pray for this country. This article seems to have been written for the majority of the churches in Greencastle and not meant to leave others out. If you think about it, Muslims and Christians, for example, will pray differently so they are not likely to pray together in the same gathering. On the other hand, they might gather with churches with the same beliefs and pray for America. That is the main goal right?

    -- Posted by communitywatcher777 on Wed, May 5, 2010, at 11:32 PM
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