A new feature added this year to the annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast will extend activities beyond the Thursday-morning breakfast and into the first weekend in May.
The featured speakers for this year's prayer breakfast, scheduled for the National Day of Prayer on May 2, will stay in town to host a two-day marriage conference, and anyone attending the breakfast will be able to go to the conference for free.
"Since last year, we've been looking to do something broader once we had the breakfast, and God just opened a door for us," said Chris Moore, who is chairing the prayer breakfast committee this year.
The weekend conference will draw on the talents of speakers Dale and Jena Forehand, a Birmingham, Ala., couple who speak about ways to strengthen marriage at church-related functions across the country.
"In the Friday-Saturday conference, we'll walk through the core areas we face to keep your marriage alive and thriving," Dale Forehand said in a phone interview from Alabama.
Forehand and his wife have been performing their marriage ministry for 14 years, traveling to 10 states this year alone, and have also appeared on "The 700 Club."
The couple focuses on renewing and strengthening the bonds of marriage for men and women wherever they are in their relationship.
"Some couples have just lost that connection," Forehand said. "If we have the challenges of going all over the place, going to the ball game, even going to church, we can put our energy into everything except our relationships."
The Forehands' techniques are based on their own experience rebuilding their own relationship after the couple divorced and then re-married each other.
"We found the real keys to marriage after eight-and-a-half years of doing things differently," Forehand said.
The marriage conference will hold sessions on the evening of May 3 and morning and afternoon sessions on May 4, all at the Sumter Opera House on North Main Street. Moore hopes all the churches involved with the prayer breakfast will promote the conference to their members.
"In order for this to be a success, we needed to hold it on neutral ground," he said. "So it's not an Alice Drive thing or a First Baptist thing or a Jehovah (Missionary Baptist) thing. So we approached the city, since the breakfast bears the mayor's name, and they let us hold it at the Opera House."
Organizers want the conference to draw a large cross-section of the community.
"People will say, 'Well, my marriage doesn't have any problems,' but it's not just for people with problems," Moore said. "It's about having a relationship with the Lord. If you put God at the center of your relationship and both draw closer to Him, you'll also draw closer together."
Prior to the conference, the Forehands will also be featured as the speakers at the prayer breakfast, hosted this year by Alice Drive Baptist Church. Their remarks there will focus on the broader theme of human relationships in general.
"We'll share the power of relationships, whether it's as a coach or a principal or a doctor," Dale Forehand said. "We'll talk about what God wants us to do in our relationships."
Tickets for this year's prayer breakfast are $10. For more information, call (803) 436-2640, or visitwww.sumterprays.com. More information on the Forehands can be found at www.daleandjena.com.