Sunday, June 22, 2003

Faithful gather at ballpark for day of prayer and unity

By Andrea Uhde
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Carole Daniels, with Christ Emmanuel Christian Fellowship in Walnut Hills, performs with the Shekinah Glory dance ministry at Great American Ball Park Saturday.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
One year after Rev. Billy Graham came to town, Cincinnati residents continue to pray for change in the city.

With heads bowed and palms raised toward the sunny sky, people gathered at the Great American Ball Park throughout the day Saturday to pray for unity and peace.

"I have a heart for the city of Cincinnati and I know the Lord has the answers for healing between people," said Nancy Brown, 54, of Middletown, who spent about seven hours in the stands waving her hands as she prayed.

The day of prayer, organized by Transformation Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky, lasted from 10 a.m. to midnight. Christians from a number of denominations came and went throughout the day, and about 90 pastors and business leaders spoke about healing Cincinnati and led prayers.

Though organizers paid about $150,000 - all donated money - to rent the enormous stadium for 14 hours, only a hundred or more seats were full at any one time during most of the day.

"It's a first-time thing for us," said Jim Richards, an event spokesman. "We really had no expectation on the numbers.

"Ultimately, the event has come out exactly like we wanted."

The home of the Reds was splashed with color and symbolism. Women in flowing dresses danced in circles on the field to worship music. People ran around the outskirts of the field waving colorful flags representative of unity.

A golden throne draped in a deep red material sat in place of second base.

"I don't have all the answers to the problems facing our city, but I know the one who does. That's why I'm here," said Phil Heimlich, vice president of the board of Hamilton County commissioners, who spoke to the crowd in the afternoon.

The day of prayer, which landed near the anniversary of Graham's four-day visit at Paul Brown Stadium, came from a vision of Ford Taylor, who coordinated the event.

"I kept having this thought every time I prayed of a stadium full of people" praying, said Taylor. "Over time, it became more of a vision about the city.

"People who are real believers know the only way that (unity) can happen is if God can make it happen," said Taylor, a former business consultant who lives in Terrace Park.

The prayer day was the first of several similar events Taylor and his volunteer team have planned.

Prayer events geared toward non-Christians will be held at several Cincinnati high schools, and a larger event will be held a year from now, Taylor said.

The next prayer meeting is scheduled for Sept. 20 at Loveland High School.

Cindy Preyer, 39, of Anderson Township, carried a red plastic shield that said "faith" and wore a belt with "truth" on it and shoes saying "the gospel."

"It's good for people to come together in prayer," she said. "When they agree in prayer, there's power in that. He hears our prayers."


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