By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
LA GRANGE, N.C. — Lenoir County Manager Mike Jarman prayed publicly May 5 for the people in his community asking that God “equip them to be prayer warriors for You and our county.” Nearly five months after his entreaty at the Kinston-Lenoir County Prayer Breakfast, one municipality’s governing body has turned back to prayer to open its meetings.
The La Grange Town Council voted Oct. 3 to reverse its March 2010 endorsement of a pre-meeting moment of silence over a spoken invocation. The seven-member board had reluctantly ended the 140-year tradition of opening prayer on the recommendation of Town Manager John Craft, who informed the council of judicial rulings in the Forsyth County prayer case that outlaw so-called “sectarian” prayers which include any specific reference to God’s name. Leaders of La Grange had said they would suspend their practice of spoken prayers awaiting the final outcome of the Forsyth case, now appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We just don’t have the money to go up against the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union),” Craft had told the board, advising that they stop the prayers to avoid any threat of lawsuit.
But this month, council members in the town of 2,800 decided to choose faith over fear.
“I really feel I made a poor decision when I voted against (having a prayer),” Councilman Larry Gladney told the Kinston Free Press. “To me, it is as if I am putting God aside.”
“I’m happy that I corrected my mistake. …” he wrote on his Facebook page last week. “As I watch C-Span I notice the U.S. Senate and Eastern Carolina Council board that I’m a member of have prayer before each meeting, so I made a decision to have Prayer added on the October council agenda for discussion/debate to bring back Prayer before each meeting.”
Apparently he wasn’t the only member to regret banning the oral invocation, as the council voted 6-0 to restore prayer to its pre-meeting routine beginning when it convenes on Nov. 7 at 6 p.m.
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, applauded the council’s action.
“I’ve always had a deep affection for this small town and was terribly saddened last year when I learned they had taken action to remove prayer from the start of their town council meetings,” said Dr. Creech, a former pastor of the First Baptist Church of La Grange. “I’m very excited to see that they have determined that decision was premature and restored it.”
The timing of the council’s decision is most appropriate as Lenoir County residents are in the midst of the area’s 10th annual Prayer Walk (Sept. 14-Oct. 28), during which hundreds of Christians have committed to bathe the county’s 400-plus square miles in prayer. According to media reports, they are calling on God to heal poverty, materialism and substance abuse, to bless their county with economic development, quality education and family life, and to prompt “renewal and reform.”
They are also giving thanks, showing gratitude for God’s many blessings and for His help in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.
“Prayer does change things. And when we appeal corporately and humbly for our community, God tells us that He will heal our land,” Dr. Creech said. “We don’t believe that there is any coincidence in these events in Lenior County — an appeal at the prayer breakfast this spring for ‘prayer warriors’ and the La Grange Council’s return to public invocations in the midst of an annual Prayer Walk.”
He said people in the eastern North Carolina town, also known as the Garden Spot, should expect continued blessings as they look to God for the harvest.