BRADENTON -- Every year, Manatee County observes the National Day of Prayer and, usually, the prayers for families, soldiers, educators and others are given and received in a solemn and orderly fashion.
But Thursday’s 60th edition at the Manatee County courthouse felt more like an old-fashioned tent revival, with some people waving American flags and others bouncing on their feet with their hands waving high in the air. (There was also an event earlier in the day in Palmetto.)
The crowd at the courthouse eagerly sang “How Great Thou Art” along with Chaplin Paul Scheele and lovingly belted out “God Bless America” with Denny Thomas of First Church of the Nazarene.
“What you sensed today was unity,” said Nancy Pilato, a Trailer Estates resident who, along with friend Joan Latona, were among the crowd of 175.
“The people here were in one accord,” Pilato added. “We are all praying for the nation to come back to its roots.”
Those roots, Pilato said, are that prayer works.
“People are finally realizing that our nation is failing,” said Pastor Bill Pierson of J.O.Y. Fellowship. “We are not only having hard economic times, but we are having hard times with our children. But there is hope. We must pray.”
The recent elimination of American enemy Osama bin Laden perhaps added to the feeling of pent up emotions and prayers answered.
Several speakers, including Manatee County Commissioner Donna Hayes, mentioned bin Laden’s death in their prayers.
The excited crowd also fired up some of the speakers.
Shirley Baucom, executive director of Care Net, a local pregnancy center that lends support to young men and women and their families, was expected to give a gentle and orderly prayer for family.
But Baucom’s vociferous prayer stole the show, said Pilato.
“She was anointed,” Pilato said.
“She threw down,” said Tad Mathews, pastor of Church on the Rock in Palmetto. “She tore it up.”
Baucom, who grew up so shy in northeast Texas that she would rather have taken castor oil for a week than speak in public, exploded in oratory that families need to pray together now more than ever.
“God is not a man that he should lie,” Baucom said. “Hath he said it and shall he not do it!”
Hayes prayed for the government, and the Rev. Sterling Forrester prayed for the military. Eugene Mixon prayed for business, and the Rev. Gary Eldred prayed for churches. Retired school board member Walter Miller prayed for education, and Bill Martin prayed for the media.
Virginia Rapone and her aunt, Dora Rapone, said there was a sense of urgency Thursday because the country is in a mess.
“We need to humble ourselves and pray,” Virginia Rapone said. “We need to be first responders to God. We have all been lulled to sleep.”