Community members from all walks of life were lifted up in prayer as part of an annual event Saturday to ring in the new year.
For the seventh year in a row, the city and county jointly hosted a community prayer service to ask for protection and guidance for students and schools, government leaders, military personnel, police and first responders, volunteers and churches.
City Commissioner Rick Beach opened the service at the Winchester First United Methodist Church First Fire campus with prayers for all community children, including preschoolers and home school and private school students.
Beach quoted Matthew 19:13-15, when Jesus “commanded His disciples to suffer little children, and forbid them not to come unto me, for such is the kingdom of heaven.”
He called on parents to strive for a higher standard, and asked for guidance for teachers, principals, school board members and all school officials.
Beach also offered prayers for the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting in December, asking for help and healing.
“I pray that it would be on our hearts as citizens of this community to lift up our children,” Beach said.
Mary Davis prayed on behalf of volunteers and called on those in attendance to seek more ways to become involved and help their neighbors.
“Our community and every community is full of people who offer themselves, they give of themselves ... to fill a need that they see,” Davis said.
She held up Jesus as an example of the ultimate volunteer and prayed that community members would show the love and kindness he displayed.
“I really don’t think we understand sometimes the ways we can reach out and help people,” Davis said.
“Let’s keep persevering in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Prayers for the military were led by George Thacker, chaplain of the Harold G. Epperson VFW Post.
“If you know a veteran that’s come back (from war), a lot of them are having a terrible time,” Thacker said.
Returning soldiers miss the camaraderie they enjoyed with their fellow service men and women, and must rely on the community for support and understanding, Thacker said.
“We thank you, Lord, for our country and the young men and women who have sacrificed so much for it,” Thacker prayed. “Help us keep America free.”
New Central Baptist Church minister Rev. Travis Drake prayed for churches, and spoke about the important role they play by “standing in the gap.”
“We’ve got so many people around us that are down and out and just need a good touch,” Drake said. “We as churches are called to come alongside people when they need it most.”
Winchester Fire-EMS Chief Eric Hunter spoke about the importance of first responders and police, comparing them to the Good Samaritan in the Bible.
“We’re often called upon to come to the aid of those in our community or neighborhood or those that are just passing through. We all go into situations just like that road between Jerusalem and Jericho that are fraught with danger,” Hunter said.
He also told everyone that they must act as first responders, being willing to help whenever the need might arise.
Former city commissioner William Baker prayed for government officials at all levels. He prayed they would seek guidance from God when making decisions.
“Guide us in the way of justice and truth,” Baker said.
He highlighted the importance of prayer for “troublesome times” and admonished leaders to not let the desire for personal gain cloud their decisions.
“If there is a time for prayer, it is now,” Baker said.
Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner closed the service with prayers for the elderly, particularly those in nursing homes, children without parental guidance, addicts, the homeless, medical personnel and utility workers.
“Believe me, public prayer works. It is a powerful tool,” Burtner said.
Contact Rachel Gilliam at email@example.com.