By Luke Phillips
Church-goers around the Imperial Valley came together Thursday, May 6th to join millions of others around the country in observance of the National Day of Prayer.
Imperial Valley Salvation Army Captain Jerry Esqueda says the event brings people together out of respect for what God has done for our country.
“We’re going to lift the nation up in prayer,” Esqueda said. “This Thursday was a time for reflecting on what we’ve been through, and what’s going on now, and where we’re going.”
The National Day of Prayer kicked off in the Imperial Valley with a breakfast and prayer service hosted by the Salvation Army, and according to Esqueda, several special guests were expected.
Speaking at the breakfast was Philip Swyers, the director for the Salvation Army’s western region, a huge territory that stretches from Micronesia to Alaska, and to El Paso, Texas in the east.
Esqueda says the local chapter of the Salvation Army has been very active in helping with recovery from Easter Sunday’s 7.2 earthquake, and he thought it would be the perfect time for Swyers to see the chapter in action.
“We just thought it would be a great time for him to come and represent the Salvation Army,” Esqueda said.
Esqueda says invitations were also extended to the mayor of Mexicali, the Mexican Consul, and several officials from the Mexican Salvation Army.
Roberta Burns, president of the local Kiwanis Club, and Captain Richard Thompson from NAF El Centro read scripture at the breakfast and El Centro city council member Sadalia Sanders was the Master of Ceremonies.
The event is open to the public and will offer a buffet style breakfast of eggs, chorizo, bacon, beans, fruit, and bagels for $10 per person.
“We’re just looking to have a great time and come together to provide fellowship and encouragement with all the changes going on in America and the world,” Esqueda said. “We want to remember our troops and our firefighters and our police and all the people that are keeping our nation free and lift them up in prayer.”
The Salvation Army breakfast began at 7 a.m. at Ryerson Youth Center, located at 1100 N. 4th Street in El Centro.
Special evening prayer services sponsored by the Imperial County National Day of Prayer Task Force took place at three separate locations around the valley, all following the theme ‘Prayer for such a time as this’.
A ‘Youth Prayer Experience’ for young people was at 6:30 p.m. at Faith Assembly in Imperial, located at 320 S. J Street.
‘A Concert of Prayer’ began at 7 p.m. at the Southwest Performing Arts Center, 2001 Ocotillo Dr. in El Centro, and featureed six pastors from around the valley reading scripture and leading prayers as well as inspirational music from Christ Community Church praise band, led by Grisel Colace.
A Spanish-language prayer event also began at 7 p.m. at the Salvation Monument in Calexico’s Rockwood Park.
The National Day of Prayer was established by Congress in 1952 as a day when people are asked to ‘turn to God in prayer and meditation’.
On April 17, 1952 president Harry S. Truman signed a bill requiring each following president to declare the observance of the National Day of Prayer each year, but that could soon come to an end.
On October 3, 2003, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued in order to challenge the designation of a National Day of Prayer as unconstitutional under the first amendment, which guarantees separation of church and state. The ‘Establishment Clause’ in the First Amendment states that “the U.S. Congress may not pass any laws enforcing religious observances.”
On April 15, 2010, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the statue establishing the National Day of Prayer was indeed unconstitutional and called it ‘an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function.’
On April 22, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a notice to appeal the ruling, and Crabb has agreed to stay the ruling pending completion of the appeals process
By Luke Phillips