Showing a cooperative spirit across the denominational spectrum, several churches along the Getwell Road corridor in Southaven have banded together to pray for the DeSoto County schools that are about to start another year of learning.
Under the title of “Blessing of the Students,” the 24-hour prayer vigil will begin at 6 p.m. Friday and continue overnight to end with a community praise and worship service at 5 p.m. Saturday.
The churches of Getwell will keep schools, students, teachers, staff and administrators bathed in continuous prayer as they are set to begin the first day of classes Aug. 3.
The vigil is being held in the sanctuary of Oak Forest Church, 7700 Getwell Road in Southaven.
It is not just aimed at Southaven schools in particular, but the churches have opened the invitation to all area schools of DeSoto County. School and community governmental leaders are being invited to take an active part in the vigil, as well.
While all of the churches along the corridor north of Goodman Road were invited to be involved, particularly active in the effort have been Oak Forest Church, the host church for the vigil and service, St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, Providence Presbyterian Church, Citygate Church, Jeremiah AME Church and Getwell Road Church.
“Our whole thing is to unify the church as much as we can,” said Ian Withrow of Citygate Church. “We want to pray for the county, the region, the mayors of the cities, the students and principals. That’s the overarching theme that we’re trying to bring through the Getwell churches.”
During the 24 hours of prayer the sanctuary of Oak Forest will be open for anyone to come and seek a blessing and receive prayer for the school year.
This is the first of what the church leaders hope will be many major activities they will undertake to galvanize the faith community and do outreach to the community in general.
“We think this a God-thing,” said Rev. Annette Ragsdale of Providence Presbyterian Church. “All of us have been thinking the same thing but not talking to each other. Finally we started talking to each other.”
Ragsdale said she approached the leaders of Jeremiah AME Church about working with each other and at the same time reached out to Oak Forest Pastor Jeremy Mew and discovered cooperative outreach had been the theme of his most-recent sermon at the time.
“I thought maybe we could do some things together,” Ragsdale surmised after the initial meetings.
The dialogue has continued with the other churches along the street and has led to this weekend’s vigil being their first cooperative effort.
Mew hopes the prayer vigil allows believers a way to actively express their faith.
“There are kids out there who do not have any access to a faith-based organization,” Mew said. “I really think it’s important that we pray over them. Maybe the Lord guards them from sickness, injury or hurt. Whatever it may be, it’s an opportunity for us to really bless the kids and let them know that we’re actively involved in their lives.”
Each of the churches involved have also collected and filled backpacks they will distribute as they see fit to students needing supplies to start school off right.
The leaders said their desire is to see this effort grow and have a greater impact in the years ahead, while at the same time bringing themselves together in unity and a common purpose.
“We appreciate the differences,” Deacon Sandy Kimmelman of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church said. “When you’re asked, ‘What’s the focus of your worship?’ you say, ‘This is it’ and then it is honored and we participate in that peace. I just think it is fantastic to help people find God.”
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.