Day of Prayer marked amid national debate

By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – People of faith observed Thursday’s National Day of Prayer at two gatherings in Tupelo, even amid a national conversation about the event’s constitutionality.
Thursday marked the 59th annual observance of the day, which was created by a joint resolution of Congress. Last month a U.S. District Court judge in Wisconsin ruled that the day of prayer amounts to government endorsement of religion.
That ruling was on people’s minds Thursday morning as they gathered in a conference room in the BancorpSouth Arena.
The gathering was sponsored by Mission Mississippi, a group dedicated to building unity between black and white Christians.
“Even as this issue is vacillating in the political realm, we give thanks that we live in a country where we have the freedom to pray openly,” the Rev. David Eldridge, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, told a crowd of 40 that was an even mix of blacks and whites.
The Rev. Jessie Gilmore, a teacher at Verona School, prayed for the education system.
“Forgive us for thinking that we could teach and raise children without you, God,” said Gilmore.
Patrice Stone, a member of CrossPointe Ministries in Tupelo, said she was disappointed that for the past two years President Obama has chosen to observe the National Day of Prayer not with a ceremony at the White House but with a written proclamation, encouraging citizens to “pray, or otherwise give thanks.”
A little past noon at Tupelo City Hall more than 200 gathered under a hot sun to pray with area ministers. Children scurried through the fountains at Fairpark while Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, greeted the crowd with humor.
“We told Franklin Graham he was welcome to come here,” said Wildmon, referring to the son of the famous evangelist, the Rev. Billy Graham, whose invitation to speak at the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer observance was revoked by Army officials.
In a 2001 interview with NBC News, Graham disparaged Islam and angered many Muslims. The National Day of Prayer is promoted as an event in which people of all faiths are encouraged to participate.
Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr. took a conciliatory tone in his remarks on Thursday, calling for “less passion and more compassion” among people of faith in dealing with their differences.

Contact Galen Holley at (662) 678-1510 or galen.holley@djournal.com.