Remaining in their vehicles, members of Seymour Christian Church recently gathered at various locations around the city to pray.
They also prayed on their way to each place.
At Schneck Medical Center, they prayed for the medical and emergency services, the employees and those who are sick.
At JCPenney, prayers were given to the financial institutions and those out of work. Outside Big Lots, prayers were for retail businesses and employees.
In the parking lot of Shops at Seymour, prayers were given to children and those who work with them. At Jay C Foods Plus, prayers were made for food stores, pharmacies and employees.
Then at the Jackson County Public Library, members prayed for the small businesses and mom-and-pop shops. In the parking lot at Seymour High School, they prayed for schools, students, teachers and other churches in town.
Finally, back at their own church, they prayed for the church families and ministers in Seymour and around the world.
Kelsie Rieker, the church’s worship pastor, came up with the idea for the prayer drive April 26. She said 55 vehicles participated, and most of them were full of an entire family.
She thought a prayer drive was needed after seeing a couple of needs in the church and community.
“First, our community needs prayer in this time. It is difficult for us to help a lot of those in our community who are struggling right now, so the best thing we can be doing is joining together to pray,” she said.
“Second, our congregation has missed seeing one another,” she said of the COVID-19 pandemic forcing churches to cancel in-person services and switch to online offerings. “We’ve had a lot of people in our church who have had a very rough past few weeks. This was an opportunity for them to get out of the house and see their friends — from a distance, of course.”
Rieker said it was a powerful gathering.
“As people pulled into the SCC parking lot and lined up, they were rolling down their windows and waving at one another with huge smiles on their faces,” she said. “When we would stop at different places around town to pray, it was incredible to see families praying together in their cars.”
Keia Blair, the church’s youth pastor, said she’s glad Rieker shared her vision and invited others to join her in fulfilling it.
“As leaders within a church, one of our many jobs is to give people the opportunity to serve, to grow spiritually and to put their growth into practice,” Blair said. “This was something that made sense because it was allowing our people to step into being a beacon of hope during this time, and it gave them the opportunity to step deeper into their community as we prayed over places that all of us go daily, weekly, monthly.”
Driving through town and seeing places empty really put into perspective how much the community has been affected by the virus, Blair said.
“I hope that this day of prayer makes a difference on each building, organization and place that we prayed over,” she said. “I pray that the power of prayer is revealed in our community. Beyond this day, I hope that it encourages our staff and members to take more time to intentionally pray over our community. I hope that it also encourages our community to take time to pray over our small town.”
Church members Terry and Marylin Durham were among the participants. They said it was “an exciting and blessed afternoon.”
“Social distancing was maintained by everyone staying in their cars, which was rather difficult as we all wanted to get out and visit with our church family,” the couple said. “We did have a lot of people hanging out of car windows and yelling out hello and well-wishes to our friends.”
With everyone praying at the same time, the Durhams felt it was a needed step they could take for all of those hurting in the community and to pray for those in danger but still working, including health care, fire, police and other essential workers.
“We believe in the power of prayer and were happy to bless our community in this way,” they said.
As she participated, church member Nancy Gill said she sensed they were praying a blanket of God’s love and protection over the community.
“We were a united force praying in the mighty name of Jesus for our small town,” she said. “What a privilege for our church to join forces with so many other organizations, churches and friends who have been supporting our community in diverse and meaningful ways. We are Seymour standing strong against COVID-19.”
Blair said seeing everyone come together gave her goosebumps.
“It really opened my eyes to how many people in our church were hungry to have an opportunity to serve and love our community,” she said.
“It also was such a sweet reminder of the value of a church congregation,” she said. “Your church family becomes your family. They become people that you love Jesus with, but mostly people who you cherish seeing every week. There were people of all ages there — preschool to high-schoolers to young adults to elderly. It was an experience that renewed, refreshed and refilled my soul.”
Rieker said she prays the event brings hope to people in this time and reminds them to pray.
“But more importantly, we hope that God answers our prayers and provides for the businesses and people in our communities and somehow uses this situation to bring more people to Christ,” she said.
“We also hope that those who participated are filled with hope for what God can do in our community because of our prayers,” she said. “I trust and pray that the many prayers that were prayed were heard and the Lord is already moving and working in them.”