Communities from around the valley gathered with countless more from around the nation to celebrate the National Day of Prayer Thursday.
Mid-Ohio Valley residents gathered in Parkersburg, Williamstown and Marietta.
Despite cloudy skies with a threat of rain that gave way to sunshine, a group of about 25 gathered at Bicentennial Park on Market Street across from the Wood County Courthouse for one of two observances in Parkersburg.
Photo by Jeffrey Saulton
Wayne Baer of Parkersburg, left, prays with Ted and Barbie Jones, also of Parkersburg, during the National Day of Prayer at Bicentennial Park across from the Wood County Courthouse.
Photo by Jackie Runion
Students from Wood County Christian School choir perform hymns on the steps of the Washington County Courthouse on Thursday afternoon during the county’s observance of the National Day of Prayer.
Photo by Jeffrey Saulton
Eric Tucker of Bible Baptist Church, right, and Olivia Tucker lead the group gathering for the National Day of Prayer at Fort Boreman Park in song.
Photo by Jolene Craig
The Williamstown High School Choral Ensemble sing songs of faith during the city’s National Day of Prayer program in front of the city building on W. Fifth Street around noon Thursday.
Photo by Jackie Runion
Washington County residents bow their heads in prayers around the steps of the Washington County Courthouse during the National Day of Prayer on Thursday afternoon.
Photo by Jolene Craig
Members of the Williamstown Ministerial Alliance and city officials listen as the Rev. Elizabeth Campbell-Maleke with the First Presbyterian Church of Williamstown speaks about the importance of prayer in front of the Williamstown City Building around noon on Thursday during the National Day of Prayer program. From left are the Rev. Lauren Godwin with Sandhill United Methodist Church, Williamstown City Councilman Ron Erb, the Rev. Steve Gedon with the First United Methodist Church of Williamstown and Campbell-Maleke.
Tim Baer, one of the organizers of the noontime observance at the park, said the prayer at the park has been going on for at least 25 years.
"I remember when I was still in high school we would meet at this same place," he said. "I remember Mayor Jimmy Colombo organized a lot of these and since Mayor Newell has been in office he has read a proclamation."
Baer said the organizers represented a number of churches or faith-based organizations.
"Most of those who met today meet with Mayor Newell for prayer," he said. "A lot of us came together; there are a number of churches here."
"Participating in the National Day of Prayer gives us the opportunity to join our voices together as one," said the Rev. Lauren Godwin with the Sandhill United Methodist Church in Williamstown.
Williamstown has held its event at noon on the steps of the city building at W. Fifth Street for more than a decade. Pastors from the Williamstown Ministerial Alliance have organized and participated in the program with their own prayers for the community, city, nation and world.
This year's program included the Pledge of Allegiance, a proclamation by Mayor Jean Ford and prayers with moments of reflection from the four pastors involved: the Rev. Steve Gedon with the First United Methodist Church, the Rev. Elizabeth Campbell-Maleke with the First Presbyterian Church of Williamstown, the Rev. Diane Kenaston with Crossroads United Methodist Church, and the Rev. Steve Delay with Faith Bible Church and Godwin.
Campbell-Maleke asked the crowd what prayer looks like and was surprised when one community member put her open arms up to the sky.
"Prayer is an open-ness," she said. "We use prayer with hands, actions. It is part of the whole of our lives.
"Prayer is our real selves going before the real God and asking for help," Campbell-Maleke added. "My prayer for today is for all of us to recognize we have the opportunity for prayer and what a gift it is."
The Williamstown High School Choral Ensemble performed in front of the city building.
During her prayer, Kenaston asked that God help everyone work for the world they wish to see.
"Teach us to always be humble and err on the side of love so our world will look more like your kingdom," Kenaston prayed.
At Fort Boreman Park in Parkersburg, a group of about 20 gathered for the 7 p.m. event. The Rev. Brian Harrell, pastor of the Liberty Street Church of God, said the National Day of Prayer has been observed at the park overlooking the city for about 10 years.
Dan Stevens, pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Parkersburg, said a group of churches has been organizing the event for the last three years.
"We wanted to have an opportunity to participate for people who work during the day and can't make it to the noon one at Bicentennial Park," he said. "We also have a strong passion to see our nation prosper and we feel morally our nation is in trouble."
Harrell said the observance began with a member of one church who wanted to give more people the opportunity to be part of the National Day of Prayer.
"A lady from the Marrtown Assembly of God started it here because the one downtown was at noon; a lot of people could not attend so she started the meeting up here," he said.
"Rain or shine we are coming to the National Day of Prayer," Harrell said. "Last year it was beautiful and we had a big crowd and this year it is cold and raining."
Like the downtown meeting, Harrell said the prayer is not a project of a specific group.
"There is a group of us pastors who meet together," he said. "We just feel a burden to do this gathering in the evening and there are a lot of people who can't get to the other one."
After an opening prayer, the group broke into five groups to pray for specific things. Harrell said those were the military, government, schools and churches in the area.
Several dozen people gathered around the steps of the Washington County Courthouse in Marietta in celebration of the 63rd National Day of Prayer in Washington County.
In Marietta, pastors, students and city officials celebrated the day on a local level with songs, prayers over pressing issues facing the U.S., and a call to the community to pray for the nation.
"Marietta is proud to be called home by people of all religions," said Rodney Lord, a pastor for Valley Harvest Church who helped coordinate the event. "We are all here to strengthen moral and religious values."
Children from Wood County Christian School choir kicked off the ceremony with hymns while toting American flags, as Marietta Mayor Joe Matthews proclaimed the official day for the city of Marietta and County Commissioner Ron Feathers did the same for the county.
Prayers focused on education, family values, the military and spiritual awakening.
"I think I'm with a group of people who believe that God is what our Western society was built on," Lord said. "We are praying here for the hope, vision, future and dreams of our nation."
"It's getting easier and easier to tell what's wrong with our nation," Lord said. "But our assignment today is to lead. We are not going to shrink back."