Diverse faiths come together New Year’s Day to pray for community unity

ST. GEORGE — Thoughts and prayers for a continued sense of unity and love for the community helped usher in the year for those gathered at the St. George Tabernacle on New Year’s Day.

At the Prayer Over the City gathering at the St. George Tabernacle held New Year’s Day, St George Utah, Jan. 1, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Those gathered for the 15th annual Prayer Over the City event held at the tabernacle heard from a mix of local faith leaders who offered positive thoughts and prayers on behalf of the community. This included prayers for continued community unity, blessings on families and those serving in the military and emergency response services, civic officials, pets and animals among others.

Rev. Jimi Kestin, of Solomon’s Porch Four Square Fellowship and one of the original organizers of the New Year’s Day gathering, said Prayer Over the City is a unique event that portrayed unity among people of faith who love their community, yet do not compromise their deeply held beliefs while doing so.

“There’s not a single piece of theological thought or belief that all of us agree on,” Kestin said, “But what we agree on is our love for this community and the desire to transcend our differences and work together for the benefit of all those that live here.”

In the event’s early days, it was held outside — first in Pioneer Park overlooking the city, then in St. George Town Square. Prayer Over the City was moved into the St. George Tabernacle with the suggestion of a former St. George mayor, as holding it outside left attendees frozen despite the warm feelings the gathering fostered, Kestin said.

“What an extraordinary journey it has been,” Kestin said, adding the event that eventually played a hand in the creation in the St. George Interfaith Council has blossomed into one that “represents the amazing diversity that has developed in this community and continues to develop.”

Those gathered at the Prayer Over the City gathering at the St. George Tabernacle bow their heads during one of the many prayers given at the event, St George Utah, Jan. 1, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Sixteen faith groups were represented at Prayer Over the City this year. Among those represented for the first time was the Sikh faith, represented by Karambir Singh Khalsa. Other faiths represented included the Baha’i and Buddhist faiths, as well as various Christian denominations.

While various prayers, positive thoughts and affirmations were given from the tabernacle’s pulpit, the Sikh prayer — or Adras — was sung.

Though chanted in foreign language, Khalsa said the Adras echoed many of the same sentiments shared in prayer and thought by other community faith leaders.

Among other thoughts and prayers was one from Russ Cashin of the Free Spirit Community, who called for people to think of someone who had helped them through hard times in the last year and thank God for them. He also asked those attending the event to be that person for someone else in the coming year.

Other highlights of the event included Rabbi Helene Ainbender of the Beit Chaverim Congregation, who prayed for people to remember to thank God and show gratitude for the blessings he bestows. This included the religious freedom people largely enjoy in the United States, as well as a personal sense of peace and mercy granted from above.

Rev. Rickine Kestin, Jimi Kestin’s wife and also of Solomon’s Porch, prayed for God’s protection and comfort to be with the area’s first responders and the news reporters who sometimes follow them to tragic scenes.

Rev. Laura Hallett, of the Center of Spiritual Living, prays for those who may feel marginalized in the community during the Prayer Over the City gathering at the St. George Tabernacle held New Year’s Day, St George Utah, Jan. 1, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“They have one of the hardest jobs because they never quite know what they’re walking into,” Rickine Kestin said as she prayed.

Other prayers asked for continued unity, love and understanding in the community, for blessings and guidance to be with national and local political figures, for people to use their time wisely and in the service of others, and to strengthen family ties.

“The reasons why we do this on New Year’s Day is to set a tone for the new year,” Jimi Kestin said. “Many believe the new year … represents a fresh start, as the old year is done. So what better way to start the new year than with a joyful experience of gathering together as friends and neighbors. I think it makes a tremendous difference.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!