From the very beginning of time when man established a relationship with that greater creative power identified as God, and sought to communicate wishes and needs, the birth of prayer took place. I am blessed to serve a congregation here in the valley that is deeply committed to lifting up prayer.
Some two years ago, my wife and I were on our way home from church here in Hermitage, traveling to Meadville. Just inside the Hermitage city limits on Route 18 we were involved in a very serious car accident which claimed the life of another. Our car ended up in an adjacent yard, my wife and I only beginning to realize the extent of our injuries and our inability to escape the demolished vehicle. We waited for help that soon came.
As I lay half in the car and half on the ground, I heard a man ask if I was also on my way home from church, and then I heard him offer a prayer. I must tell you that that prayer was the sweetest and most helpful prayer I could have ever received. The presence of God was in that prayer and in that moment, in which I knew that my wife and I would survive this catastrophe because God had much more in store for us. As quietly as the gentleman came to pray over me, he was gone.
Such was the beginning of many, many prayers for our recuperation and healing following surgery and therapy that spanned many months. Prayer attached to a purpose makes a difference, and even as my wife and I healed, we saw new ways that prayer was making a difference in the life of our church. Unity and strength soon began to fill our classrooms, fellowship hall and sanctuary in ways that were new and different and unique. Our elders and other church leaders began to take those aspects of prayer to new heights in discerning how our congregation of 185 years might expand its ministry and vision to be focused more directly on the needs of our valley and our world.
From that deep and abiding prayer time, we set our sights on new goals, new objectives, and new strategies for ministry that would be exciting and contemporary. Who would figure that a congregation as old as ours would set aside its bylaws and church structure to try something new and different. Sure there were doubts, but to answer those doubts was a lot of prayer and study and reflection. As I have found it most helpful at the level of our church, so too as the newly re-elected president of the Christian Associates of the Shenango Valley.
Over 40 years ago the Christian Associates was originated to bring together the valley churches in an ecumenical spirit to feed and start various programs that would benefit the greater community. It did this job quite successfully for some time, but as with all things, age and involvement brought a decline in member churches and individuals. Funding, always generous through the local churches, began to wane as well, as churches realized their own economic woes. The programs that were started were either ongoing and needing little help from Christian Associates, or new programs that would command money to begin, which the Associates did not have.
Over the last two years, Christian Associates has been undergoing transformation, looking at old structures, old values, old ideas, and even dated by-laws. Again, after much prayer and reflection, the board of Christian Associates set out to draw new by-laws, to examine programs it continued to support, and to focus on programs that would be ecumenically significant and meaningful to our community.
An initiative started by my predecessor, Rev. Carol Missik, was a focused prayer period in each of the many neighborhoods surrounding Sharon and Hermitage. Not wanting to curtail that momentum, the desire has been to continue to strengthen the prayer lives of our participating churches by praying for respective communities.
With summer fast approaching and vacations surely to take many of us to distant places for some leisure time and recreation, I do hope that you find some time to be in prayer and meditation about your spiritual life of Christian service, that you will maintain in prayer the work of the Christian Associates of the Shenango Valley and for your church. Imagine the power of so many powerfully pleading together for the presence of God to change this valley for the better.
Rev. Dr. Jeffrey T. Moore is minister at Central Christian Church, Hermitage.