Prayer aplenty at Salem gathering

SALEM – A gathering of people prayed, sang, and pledged allegiance to the flag and to one nation under God as the Salem area celebrated the National Day of Prayer Thursday afternoon.

Jim Kelly, a member of the Salem National Day of Prayer Committee, praised the weather and the turnout, saying “prayer is our access to God.”

He said the leaders of the colonies, when the country first started, all believed in the power of prayer and most presidents since then have asked God for guidance and strength. He said the country needs “leaders who believe and trust in God and will call upon His name for guidance.”

The program held on the village green at Lincoln Avenue and State Street in front of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce building featured scripture and prayer for what are considered the seven centers of power, identified as government, church, military, family, education, media and business.

The theme for this year’s nationwide event was Pray for America and referenced Matthew 12:21, “In his name the nations will put their hope.”

Those speaking on behalf of the seven centers included Pastor Ken Sevacko of Realife Church for the government, U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Matt Close for the military, Salem City Treasurer Bob Tullis for the media, Pastor Fred Kirchner of the First Church of the Nazarene in Salem for business, Salem Schools Superintendent Tom Bratten for education, Pastor Stanley Grabill of Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Church in Salem for churches and Kent State University Salem campus freshman Josh Harbin of Salem for family.

Close, who serves active duty as a recruiter and graduated from West Branch High School in 2002, had to stop to compose himself as he asked for God’s prayers for all the troops serving both here and abroad and especially for the families of the ones going into battle every day to fight for freedom and the ones who don’t make it back.

“We just ask a special blessing on those families that have made that sacrifice,” he prayed.

Family was a recurring theme in many of the presentations, with Tullis praying for all forms of media and turning his attention to the entertainment industry, asking that more family friendly content be offered.

Bratten spoke about his own hard-working mother and how they moved from place to place and how those challenges shaped his life and how coaches and teachers helped in that process. He said that’s more common than not in today’s world. He also commented how there’s not supposed to be signs of God in the schools, but “that does not mean we can’t find God in our schools.”

Harbin noted how families are being torn apart and prayed that upcoming generations will recognize the importance of family.

“Thank you for giving us the privilege to pray,” Grabill said.

Salem First Friends Church Associate Pastor Andy Black and fellow church member Rod Wilson led some songs, with Salem First Christian Church Pastor Peter Fowler leading the opening prayer and Helen Miletta of Salem First Friends Church offering the closing prayer. Salem Mayor John Berlin read a proclamation and two Salem boys and AWANA Club members from Salem First Friends Church, James Lease and Zarak Ross, presented the flags and led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at