Since 1952, the United States has officially observed an annual National Day of Prayer. But long before President Harry S. Truman signed the bill into existence, other Commanders-in-Chief and national leaders had similar ideas. The first observance even pre-dated American independence, when the Continental Congress declared July 20, 1775 as “a day of publick (sic) humiliation, fasting, and prayer.” President John Adams declared a day of prayer in 1798; President Lincoln made a similar gesture in 1863, at the height of the Civil War. In 1988, during the Reagan administration, the annual observance was fixed as the first Thursday of May.
This interfaith observance is celebrated in many ways by communities and people of all beliefs, but here in Sumter, the day starts early with the annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast. At 6:30 a.m. on May 2, 2013, a hearty breakfast will be served at Alice Drive Baptist Church, followed at 7:30 by a program featuring prayers and performances by community leaders, followed by keynote presenters Dale and Jena Forehand of Stained Glass Ministries.
At the heart of the Forehands’ compelling story is the disintegration and restoration of their own marriage. Married in 1988, divorced in 1996, and remarried in 1997, it’s an amazing tale of grace, acceptance, and reconciliation. As arrangements began for their Sumter appearance, the event soon blossomed into what Steering Committee Chair Chris Moore refers to as “something very special”—a two-day marriage seminar beginning on Friday, May 3, at the Sumter Opera House will accompany the breakfast.
As a long-time member of the Steering Committee that plans the event, I was initially concerned about having as our main speakers a couple who spend a lot of their time conducting marriage conferences. What about the single people? I thought. Or the divorced, or the widowed? Is there anything here that will speak to them? A conference call with Dale Forehand quickly relieved my uncertainty, as he assured the group that the Forehands’ presentation definitely includes something for everyone, married or not. A quick look at his blog shows that this is indeed the case, and the presentation will focus on the power of all human relationships—spouses, parents and children, friends, co-workers, and others. “We have the challenges,” he said in a recent interview with The Item, “…we can put our energy into everything except our relationships.”
This is Sumter’s 12th annual observance, and event organizers look forward to a good turnout. It makes me sad, though, that something important will be missing—the presence of Stan Schaetzle, who lost his battle with cancer in 2012. A community leader referred to by his son Bud as “one of those go-to guys,” Schaetzle was the primary person responsible for reviving Sumter’s Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in 2001, the 50th anniversary of the first national observance. A strong-minded gentleman with a contagious laugh and near-superhuman energy (I once asked him his secret, and he almost howled as he said, “Vitamins!”—I still don’t know if he was joking!), the retired Air Force fighter pilot once stated that the event “was too good to let it die.” With the support of Mayor Joseph T. McElveen, Jr., Schaetzle grabbed the reins, rallied his troops, and brought the event back to life—bigger and far better than before.
Nor did his community involvement end there. Schaetzle was actively involved with Relay for Life, the Military Officers Association, the Order of Daedalians, the Air Force Association, and he was one of the organizers and founding members of Immanuel Lutheran Church. He was presented by Mayor McElveen with the Gamecock Society Award in 2012. We members of the Steering Committee all miss Stan, but I’m sure he’ll be there with us in spirit…and if one listens closely, perhaps the echo of that laugh will be heard once more through the applause of the crowd. I think he would be proud of this year’s program.
Tickets for the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast are $10 in advance, and may be purchased at the Swan Lake Visitors Center, Olive Tree Christian Bookstore, and Shaw AFB Chapel. Tickets will also be available at the door for $12. Admission to the two-day marriage seminar is also $10; however, it’s free for all who attended the breakfast. Alice Drive Baptist Church is located at 1305 Loring Mill Road; the Sumter Opera House is in downtown Sumter at 21 N. Main Street.
Following the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, the annual observance of the National Day of Prayer, hosted by the Sumter Ministerial Association, will be held at noon on the Sumter County Courthouse lawn (141 N. Main St.). To find out what other events may be taking place, please contact your preferred house of worship.
If you would like to become a program sponsor, contact Bronwyn McElveen at (864) 430-4540. Otherwise, for more info, please call the Visitors Center at (803) 436-2640 or check out the event website at www.sumterprays.com.
by Colette Daniels