Hundreds attend prayer march

Lori McKinney, left, and Donnie Thomas sing hymns Sunday at the prayer march in downtown Lenoir City.

Christians of all denominations gathered Sunday on Broadway Street in an effort to amplify prayers for the community, state and nation.

The prayer march started at 3 p.m. with pastors from churches all over Loudon County taking turns leading prayers for unity and health across the U.S. Sunday’s prayer march had 300 attendees representing more than 20 churches represented before 3 p.m. to sing contemporary Christian music and hymns.

The event, organized by the Rev. Joseph McGaha, Calvary Baptist Church pastor, was inspired by the September prayer march in Washington, D.C.

“As I flew back from Washington (D.C.) to Knoxville that Saturday night, in my heart I said, ‘If an event like this can happen in Washington, D.C., then surely it can happen in Loudon County, Tennessee’,” McGaha said. “From there, I began to make phone calls to city and county officials to see whether or not an event of this type could be put together, and, very quickly, things began to fall into place.”

The march was intended as a time of “focused prayer,” McGaha said.

“We recognize that America is in need of healing, and, as a believer in Christ, we hold to the positions that healing will only occur as God sends a revival to our land and as we return to the foundations upon which our nation was built,” McGaha said.

As soon as McGaha returned home from Washington, D.C., he and his staff got to work contacting churches in the county across all denominational lines.

Jeff Harris, Blairland Baptist Church director of student ministries and worship leader, was one of the many pastors who spoke at the event. He saw the gathering as a “good opportunity” to pray for local leaders, school systems, first responders and military.

“It’s just a time that we could all come together on one focus, and that’s focused on prayer and the effect prayer can have not only to us individually but to our community and to our state and nation. It was a really good event, I thought,” Harris said.

The Rev. Ingrid Schalk, Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church pastor, was invited to attend but didn’t plan on speaking. She believes it’s important for Christians to be united, especially in times of nationwide division.

“I was there to be a part of what God calls us to do together in being the church in praying together and working together especially at this time,” Schalk said. “Our nation is divided, and we’re called to be different and be God’s people especially in the midst of turmoil. Our presence and prayers are what bring hope to a place that needs it. There’s so many in this time not seeing hope. They’re seeing possible disaster and we’re called to bring hope.”

Janie McCullough and Shana Waldrop, prayer march attendees, were praying for unity, healing and encouragement for pastors.

“I’m just thankful we live in a place where we can do this and can gather,” McCullough said. “I think our nation needs prayer. That’s what we’re here for as a community to pray for our country.”

Waldrop said she’s thankful for the freedom to gather religiously.

“I’m just praying that we are able to keep our freedom and our rights to do things like this,” Waldrop said.

The prayer march could become an annual event in Loudon County.

“I have had numerous people ask me after the event was finished yesterday, ‘When are we going to do this again?’ I anticipate that in the coming weeks we will be discussing along these lines for next year,” McGaha said.