"[This program] is important because these are times that are very difficult and troubling and all of us recognize we need the help of God," said Joe E. Edwards, pastor of The Church at Liberty Square and the chairman for the local National Day of Prayer Committee. "Last year, we had in Bartow County the largest gathering for the National Day of Prayer of any community in the state of Georgia. We had 150 ministers who gathered before the noon prayer time in the county annex to pray together. Then we had over 1,000 people to gather on the Bartow County courthouse steps to pray.
"This year, we're expecting again a huge turnout from the community. Ministers and churches are already praying about [the] Thursday, May 3, noon, National Day of Prayer gathering. This year we have invited every elected official and every candidate that has declared themselves for an elected office to join us with their families and as a part of the ceremony. We're going to be praying for them and expressing gratitude to them for making themselves available to serve the people."
Prior to the public program on Thursday, area ministers will gather in prayer at 11 a.m. inside the old First Baptist Church, 112 W. Cherokee Ave. in Cartersville. Afterwards, the activities will move outside at noon to the steps of the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center at 135 W. Cherokee Ave., where the ceremony will consist of a community choir, scripture readings and prayers.
"It's really a neat thing to see ministers from across denominational lines to come together and pray together," said David Franklin, associational missionary for the Bartow Baptist Association and a member of Bartow's National Day of Prayer Committee. "We just think that's a very important thing for ministers. The first year [the ministers all walked to the courthouse] it was amazing. People, when they saw their ministers together, just began to weep.
"There's just something really sweet about saying, 'Hey, we are together and this togetherness is important. This unity is very important.' ... Moses came up out of Egypt with the children of Israel. There's 12 tribes to the children of Israel and when they camped, they camped according to their tribes. But when they went out, they went out as one. So on Sunday morning you may see different tribes and different churches but the National Day of Prayer is a great time for all the different tribes to come together and to say, 'We're praying as one.'"
Created by a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress in 1952, the National Day of Prayer was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman and is recognized annually on the first Thursday of May. Along with being the guests of honor, local government officials will be playing a key role in Thursday's observance. In addition to the gathering being held at the courthouse, Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown as well as Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini have signed a proclamation to mark its significance.
For more information about the National Day of Prayer program, call The Church at Liberty Square at 770-382-9489.