*This story first appeared in The Budget’s May 9, 2018, Local Edition.
By Stacey Carmany
Churches from all over Tuscarawas County came together at the New Philadelphia First United Methodist Church last week for the county’s first-ever unified National Day of Prayer service.
“Tonight marks just another step in an effort many of our churches have been on for years now, an effort to pursue unity in the body of Christ in our cities and in our county,” said Travis Wright, president of the Dover-New Philadelphia Ministerial Association, as he welcomed attendees to the service. “It’s amazing to me tonight that we are here in this place from many different denominations and traditions, and I think that is awesome.”
He cautioned, however, against allowing differing traditions and denominations to become walls of divisions and disunity. “Instead of separating ourselves because of what we disagree on, how about coming together because of what we agree on?” he continued. “And that is Jesus and His kingdom.”
As part of the service, local elected officials and community leaders took the podium to read scripture passages and share prayers for the government, churches, families, schools, military, media and first responders.
Following the reading of a proclamation by Tuscarawas County Commissioner Joe Sciarretti declaring May 3, 2018, as the official observance of National Day of Prayer in the county, New Philadelphia Mayor Joel B. Day led attendees in a prayer for government officials at the local, state and national levels.
“Government needs prayer often, and as much prayer as you can give government, it needs it, believe me,” Day shared. “The decisions that we have to make are important, and it takes guidance from above and each other in order for us to make the right decisions.”
Vane Scott, commander of the Newcomerstown Veterans Honor Guard, read a short poem written by an unknown serviceman before leading a prayer on behalf of the na- nation’s military and military families.
New Philadelphia First UMC pastor Rev. Jim Humphrey led the worshippers in a prayer on behalf of area churches that echoed Wright’s earlier call for unity rather than division.
“We come together tonight to pray for our churches, not just for Tuscarawas County but for around this nation particularly, that the churches of this nation can continue sharing the word of God, the love of
God, the message of Christ’s forgiveness and salvation, and we bring that message of unified prayer tonight to unify and connect all to that spirit,” he shared.
Local mother Leslie Wright delivered a passionate speech and prayer focused on preserving and uplifting families. “You are part of something special. You are part of something the enemy wants to destroy,” she shared. “He has been on a mission, but guess what? He loses because we are going to stand up for the family.”
Indian Valley Superintendent Ira Wentworth was also part of the event. He moved those in attendance with his powerful pleas for guidance and protection for every educator and school staff member in Tuscarawas County.
Others who spoke during the service included WTUZ Sports Director Joe Geckler, who shared a prayer for media, and Steve Mastin, owner of a local chain of Wendy’s restaurant franchise stores, who led the crowd in a prayer for area businesses. Lyle Warren, pastor at Midvale and Newport United Methodist churches, led a prayer for first responders, and a community choir performance featuring the singers of the Living Connection Church and Indian Valley music teacher Melanie Glazer closed out the program.