Strong response expected to mayor's prayer call
HUNTINGTON -- Huntington Mayor Steve Williams' personal video request that local congregations engage in prayer at 11:05 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 7, for the city's continuing fight against drugs has received more than 500,000 views and has been seen on every habitable continent. Williams himself will attend three churches Sunday, attending services at Trinity Episcopal, where he is a member, speaking at Christ Temple Church, then attending Fifth Avenue Baptist Church, where he is also a member, at the designated time for the group prayer.
"Sunday will be a special day," the mayor said. "The response has been overwhelming. It's a testament to the strength of social media and the strength of the mosaic of faith in our region, and I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but I am."
Williams released the video, asking for prayer for the community as Huntington continues to battle drug crime and the scourge of addiction, last month on his personal Vimeo account.
"I didn't really do much," he said. "I reached out to eight or 10 people, and they reached out to their congregations, and their congregations have reached out to so many people. It should embolden us, that we can come together in agreement on something like this and can act in such a way to have a dramatic effect that so many around the world embrace. It should show us we have the wherewithal within ourselves to do some pretty tremendous things."
The call to prayer is not limited to Christian congregations, Williams said.
He said the local Islamic community has already begun praying for the city, and the Jewish community is involved as well.
B'Nai Shalom Temple in Huntington will have a special prayer Friday and another Sunday morning, though slightly earlier than 11:05 a.m.
There will be a special visitor in Huntington during the ceremony, though the timing is actually something of a coincidence.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Primate and Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in 17 nations, including the U.S., will be at St. John's Episcopal Church for Sunday's 10:30 a.m. service.
The bishop decided to visit the church after 11-year-old Dylan Andrus invited her in a letter last year.
The Rev. Lisa Graves, priest at St. John's, said Jefferts Schori has been made aware of the community prayer effort.
"It's a nice bit of synchronicity," Graves said. "Of course, the bishop is very involved in working with the poor and the marginalized, and drug abuse always involves the poor and the marginalized. We're actually making a prayer quilt, and she will bless it for us and we will present it to the city. We're very excited."
The event also has also caught the attention of reality TV star Dog the Bounty Hunter, who has offered his help and services to the city, according to Joe Murphy of Trifecta Productions, which shot the mayor's video.
"I worked with him a few years back, and a couple of days ago I reached out, just took a shot in the dark and sent him an email," Murphy said. "He called me back about half an hour later and wanted to know how he could help. He offered advice and offered prayer. After he hung up with me, he called Mayor Williams offering support and wanting to visit and look at the problem."
Murphy said he believes that the prayer event will change things in Huntington, but added that the community has to be ready for that change.
"We need to be ready right now to accept these folks," he said. "We can't just send them back out after 11:05 on Sunday morning. We need to be open-minded about what kind of help we can take. There are going to be a lot of new faces in these churches and a lot of people will be out of their comfort zone.
"Dog is one of those people who is willing to step up and help, no matter what people may think of him."
Murphy said the reality TV bounty hunter and his wife would like to visit the city just as citizens, but he has offered up Trifecta's facilities and production free of charge should they want to film.
Follow reporter Ben Fields on Twitter @BenFieldsHD.
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