‘A sweet spirit’

Area ministers, community mark presidential inauguration with prayer

Prayer marked President Barack Obama’s inauguration day for a group gathered at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Community Center. Members of the Hall Oldfield Maryville Empowerment, Inc., and the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center organized the day-long prayer vigil in honor of the country’s 44th president. Community Center executive director Sissy Ferguson said the doors were open for prayer from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 20 more than 60 people dropped in throughout the day to pray or share what was on their mind.

Among those participating in the prayer vigil were the Rev. Stone Carr, the Rev. Michael Buchanan, Pastor Lorrin Harris, Austin Price, the Rev. Larry Shearer, the Rev. Ralph J. Miller Jr., the Rev. Willa Estell, the Rev. Gary Hill, the Rev. Joel Walker.

“Originally it was planned by my program assistant Joel Walker and the Hall Oldfield Maryville Empowerment, Inc.,” said Ferguson. “Joel was instrumental in getting ministers scheduled for the prayer vigil.”

Ferguson said the idea was to have someone scheduled for every hour throughout the late morning and afternoon of inauguration.

“Even though the TV was going, we still took time to continue to pray for the country and the new president and this community, about coming together and working together,” Ferguson said. “We also had lots of people get up and talk. If you didn’t want to pray, you could say how you were feeling.”

The group enjoyed lunch early in the afternoon and then the vigil resumed. “It was an ongoing vigil, which is what it was geared to be. We had great participation as far as ministers. We started at 11 a.m., and it was over at 5 p.m.,” she said

Ferguson said when the idea first came up, she thought it was a great idea to pray for a national leader. “I think it’s vital in this administration, as it has been in previous administrations, to pray for this country. I believe that is what this country is founded on. Ultimately, God is in control.”

Rev. Willa Estell, who spoke at the vigil, said the event was a tremendous blessing. For change to happen, she said, it will take white, blacks, Hispanics and all races working together.

“We understand with everything going on in the world, it’s going to take God. I thank God for President Barack Obama, but we understand he can only do so much, and we each must play a part,” she said.

Ferguson said the country’s citizens should work to serve each other. “If we can do that as a group and agree on a focus and be able to embrace each other and serve one another, that is the key,” she said. “If you can give of yourself and help someone along the way, it is a good turn and people pay it forward. I believe in that whole heartedly.”

Ferguson said those who participated in the prayer vigil could have been lots of places but they chose to come the center and share.

“I believe they were very serious about that, and they expect good things from that,” she said. “There was a sweet spirit in this place on inauguration day.”

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