As they have for more than 25 years, Owegoans turned out yesterday at the Tioga County courthouse square to pray for America. But things were different on this 61st observance of the country's National Day of Prayer. Rather than pastors from area churches, it was the youth of Owego who stepped forward at 6:30 p.m. to lead the service.
And a little child shall lead them
They came from the Abide in the Vine Christian Fellowship's Youth Group and from the “DOGS” (Disciples of God), a joint initiative of Owego’s First Baptist Church and First Presbyterian Union Church that seeks to provide a church home for children in need of adult support and guidance. They came not with prepared scripts, but with unrehearsed thoughts of gratitude and concern, of care for the nation and its people. With words that were heartfelt and simple – but no less profound for their simplicity – more than a dozen youthful prayer leaders invited the assembly to join with them in praying for an end to teen suicide; for respect for all people; for an end to killing by extremist groups; and for the wellbeing of the entire country. They prayed for peace in the Middle East, for the social outcasts in their schools, for the strength to stand up to peer pressure. They shared experiences of physical healings and prayed for the healing of others. At an age when many children find public speaking a terrifying prospect, these young men and women spoke of their worries and fears, their faults and mistakes – and of the answers they found in Christian scripture, and the welcome they received in Christian faith communities.
Pastors praise youth
Reactions of ministerial staff in attendance were enthusiastic and highly positive. First Baptist Pastor Terry Steenburg commented that the attendance (between 80 and 100 people) was an encouraging sign, possibly the largest gathering to date. Pastor Bill Anderson of Tree of Life Christian Fellowship found such a strong confession of Christian faith by the next generation cause to have great hope for the future. Abide in the Vine’s Pastors, Fred Hoover and Bob Seymour (the event coordinator), expressed admiration for the teens’ powerful witness of courage and commitment.
Around the area
Although NDP observances were also held Johnson City, Groton and several other locations in New York’s Southern Tier, reports were not immediately available. (One report of a National Day of Reason celebration was located. According to the Atheists of Binghamton website, three people gathered at a location restaurant to "drink to clear thinking.")