First, an early morning crowd turned out for the annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast, and later in the day speakers stood on the steps of the courthouse for another series of prayers to strengthen and support the city and the nation.
In the morning, visitors filled the M.H. Newton Family Life Enrichment Center at Jehovah Missionary Baptist Church on Manning Avenue for the 11th annual prayer breakfast.
Besides Mayor Joe McElveen, members of the clergy, the military, other officials and young people all took part in the breakfast event, and the keynote address was given by former NBA star A.C. Green.
Dr. Les Carpenter, dean of the University of South Carolina Sumter, presided over the breakfast, noting the history of the National Day of Prayer. He said the Continental Congress called for a National Day of Prayer in 1775 as the nation struggled to establish its independence. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation of a day of prayer during the depths of the Civil War. In 1952, President Harry Truman established an annual day of prayer to be set by presidential proclamation, and in 1988, President Ronald Reagan established the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer.
McElveen said despite the name of the event's being the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast, "everything you see here requires organization, and the mayor's not doing that, it's our organizing committee," including the long-serving committee chairman Stan Schaetzle, who stepped down for this year's breakfast due to illness.
"He's never been up on this stage, and he wouldn't want to be," McElveen said, "but Stan Schaetzle, and Jesus Christ, are the reason we're here today, with Jesus working through Stan."
Schaetzle wasn't able to attend Thursday's breakfast, but McElveen said at the earliest opportunity he intends to present him with the Gamecock Society Award.
McElveen also delivered the prayer for government, one of several prayers meant to thank God and call heavenly attention to different institutions. Master Sgt. Sean Fitzwilliam, Third Army master chaplain assistant, prayed for the military, Chris Moore with SumterPrays.com prayed for the media, Beverly Gagne with SAFE Federal Credit Union prayed for business and industry, Lakewood High School student Aaron Watts prayed for education, City Councilman Calvin Hastie prayed for area churches, and YMCA CEO Kimberly Cousineau prayed for the family.
In his keynote speech, Green, who has been active with the A.C. Green Youth Foundation both during and after his playing career, talked about the need for young people like the students in the audience to grow up with a role model.
"You have to model respect. Your actions speak louder than words," he told the breakfast audience. "You want to know how to connect to young people? Show them a Christianity and a Jesus that they want in their life."
In Green's case, it was a teacher he had his senior year of high school.
"I had just won a state championship, I had a new car, I had a scholarship, I was going to college in a few months," he said, "but even at 17, I took notice of something in this man."
Green's teacher took him to church, a church where "nobody looked like me. It was all white, even on the outside."
That visit led Green to deepen his faith, something that has motivated him throughout his career.
"Everything about me, my size, my skin, my 18-size shoes, comes from God. God places us here for his honor and glory," he said. "Let him be your head coach."
Reach Bristow Marchant at (803) 774-1272.