Day of prayer to be marked quietly in Springs

May 1, 2006
National Day of Prayer observances in Colorado Springs will be low-key this year, a departure from years past and a disappointment to a former local organizer.
Thursday, there will be no citywide rally, no public proclamation by the mayor. No one volunteered to coordinate events locally this year, despite the fact that the National Day of Prayer’s organizing body is in Colorado Springs. “It’s disappointing,” said George Stahnke, who coordinated Colorado Springs’ National Day of Prayer activities the past two years. “There’s no doubt about it. But at the same time, I know it’s a lot of work. People just have busy schedules.” The National Day of Prayer was signed into law by President Harry Truman in 1952 and has been observed on the first Thursday of May since the Reagan administration. The day is intended to be a multi-faith observance, annually recognized by the president and all 50 U.S. governors. The day’s largest coordinating body, the National Day of Prayer Task Force, is an evangelical Christian organization based in Colorado Springs. According to task force officials, more than 1.8 million people nationwide are expected to participate in the event this year. Dakotans will pray at the base of Mount Rushmore. The faithful in Knoxville, Tenn., hope to fill a 24,000-seat stadium. Residents of North Pole, Alaska, will hold a prayer breakfast. Locally, events are being produced piecemeal. A handful of pastors and prayer leaders will take the Cog Railway up Pikes Peak, where they will pray. Christian radio stations KTLF (90.5 FM) and KTPL (88.1 FM) will have a three-hour prayer session beginning at 6 a.m.. Events will be held at the World Prayer Center, Colorado College’s Shove Memorial Chapel and several churches. Missing this year are the citywide events that were fixtures. Last year, Colorado Springs observed the 54th annual National Day of Prayer with a citywide prayer rally and youth concert in a downtown park. Mayor Lionel Rivera attended a prayer gathering at City Hall. Rivera still will sign a proclamation for the National Day of Prayer, but it will be done without a speech or ceremony, according to city officials. Poet Victoria Heim said she was “shocked” when she discovered no one is coordinating the city’s Day of Prayer activities. She decided to organize an event at Shove Chapel. The 12:15 p.m.-1 p.m. multi-faith event will feature the Rev. Khan McClellan from Calvary United Methodist Church, the Rev. Ellen Johnson-Fay from All Souls Unitarian-Universalist Church and Arshad Yousufi from the Islamic Society of Colorado Springs. “The whole theme is peace, and the whole theme is prayer,” Heim said. It took several hours each week for Stahnke and his volunteer staff to pull past events together. “There were moments of intense stress, but not any moments where you wanted to pull your hair out,” said Stahnke, a former pastor who’s now a counselor for the Christian organization Focus on the Family. Stahnke stepped away because the event took too much time. Jim Weidmann, vice chairman of the National Day of Prayer task force, said he isn’t surprised the volunteer job went unfilled this year. The task force focuses on what’s happening nationally, and can’t manage citywide events, even when there’s a vacuum in the task force’s backyard, he said. The National Day of Prayer Task Force is headed by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. The organization, run from offices in Focus’ Briargate campus, is an umbrella organization for thousands of events nationwide, including a three-hour Day of Prayer event on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Christian recording artist Rebecca St. James recorded a song for the task force’s events, and Henry Blackaby wrote the Day of Prayer prayer, which will be read at task force events. Most of the events happening in Colorado Springs on Thursday are connected with the task force and listed on its Web site, CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0367 or
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