In a time when many are searching for unity locally, in the United States and beyond, perhaps the National Day of Prayer came at the perfect moment.
Thursday marked the 69th national event, which is held each year on the first Thursday of May. A couple hundred residents gathered for a community prayer held at the downtown Liberty Bell, an annual tradition in Bakersfield for more than 30 years.
“When God’s people come together across all denominations, there’s something special and peaceful about that,” said Wendell Vinson, who’s been the pastor at Canyon Hills Church for 38 years. “We honor the Lord.”
This year’s Day of Prayer theme was Love, Life and Liberty, and Vinson said about 75 to 100 local pastors prayed together before the noon gathering.
“The big challenges we face, we’re going to face them together, we’re going to pray about them together,” Vinson said.
Guest speakers at the community prayer discussed the past year and some of the duress the community and nation currently faces.
Pastor Milt Cole said a simple scan of local media reports paints a picture of societal violence and unrest that he believes could be curbed through worship.
“Our nation needs God’s grace and God’s wisdom,” he said to a round of applause.
Karl Hargestam, the executive director at CityServe, said despite some of the fracturing and division that are seen in the world today, the church can play a role in reuniting people.
“It’s time to build bridges,” he said. “The church certainly has a place in society for that.”
Just under an hour, the gathering featured praise song and prayers said for different groups including armed forces/law enforcement, led by pastor Dave Champness; national, state and local leaders, led by pastor Cole; community and families led by Catherine Waldon; and churches and Christian organizations led by Dr. Jeff Chandler.
Attendees featured a cross-section of community members, all united in spiritual prayer.
“I think everyone felt very blessed to be here,” said said former city councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan. “That feeling of fellowship, of the holy spirit. And the privilege to see people here that we’ve known for years. I’m always optimistic, but this was great.”