“Lots and lots of prayer is going out to the community this weekend,” said Linda Gundersen, a member of Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church, which will be holding a 24-hour prayer vigil this weekend.
Led by the Revs. David Humphrey and Woody Wilson, the church has adopted an outreach vision of no unaddressed human need in a 12-mile radius from Mariner’s and beyond. As part of that, it has enacted a nine-week campaign called “Momentum.”
“One of the biggest things we wanted Momentum to do was to make people more aware of the needs in the community; and us, as people of prayer, we need to reach out. We need to be able to see. That’s a big deal, going to the grocery line or anything you’re doing, to be able to see the people around you and to reach out to them if you think they may need it,” said Linda Gundersen, who is leading a 24-hour prayer vigil as part of an effort to support Momentum.
Beginning on Saturday, June 17, community members are welcome to pray from 7:30 p.m. to midnight at the church. From midnight to 8 a.m., participants will be praying at home. They’ll resume at the church from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
During the prayer time at the church on Saturday, there will be a variety of prayer options and programs offered.
From 7:30 to 8 p.m., there will be an opening praise and worship in the Sanctuary, followed by prayer for the future of Mariner’s, Momentum and its congregation, from 8 p.m. to midnight. During that time, there will be prayer ministers available for personal prayer in Mariner’s Prayer Room. From 8 to 11 p.m., youth prayer activities will be held in the social hall.
From 10 to 11 p.m., a soaking prayer will be held. A soaking prayer is spending time with God — either by sitting or lying in an attitude of stillness — while soft worship music plays in the background. Those who participate are welcome to bring a mat if they would like to lie down, while the church will also have towels available.
Overnight, from midnight to 8 a.m., those who wish to continue the vigil are being invited to pray at home for the needs of the community.
“Overnight, we’re having people pray at home. If they need the materials emailed to them, we can do that,” added Gundersen.
Then, on Saturday, June 18, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mariner’s social hall will be transformed into a labyrinth.
“People will be able to walk the labyrinth. If you’ve never done one, hospitals and churches all over the world have invested in putting labyrinths in because they’ve really shown and demonstrated they have great meditation and healing power when you practice. It allows you to think about your path with God and think about your path in life.
“You can start out carrying something in — a problem or a need — and you leave it in the center for God, and you walk out empty-handed and freed from that. There’s all sorts of things to use a labyrinth for, and it’s something a family can do together if they want to.”
Throughout the day, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., prayer ministers will also be available for personal prayer in the prayer room, while the sanctuary will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. to pray and to “Be still and know that I am God.” It also includes two hours of soaking prayer, at 8 a.m. and at 1 p.m. Taize music will play in the sanctuary at 9 a.m., with a guided meditation held at noon.
“Earlier in the day, we have a focus on bringing yourself more centered to God. Bring your mat in, and you can lie on the floor of the sanctuary and listen to beautiful music and just soak in the Holy Spirit,” said Gundersen. “We have meditation that’s going to be a little later in the day, at noon, that allows people to think about who they are in Christ. It’s a guided meditation.”
From 2 to 7 p.m., the sanctuary will be open so that people can pray for healing for the church, the congregation, the community, the people of the world and the Earth.
“All during this time, anyone who comes in, we have a big basket of prayer cards that the community has filled out. We’ve been calling the community, we’ve been asking our congregation to reach out beyond who they know at Mariner’s, give them prayer cards, ask for their concerns and bring those concerns to us,” Gundersen explained. “As people come in to pray, they go into the basket, they pull out a bunch of the cards, and that’s one of the things they meditate on during that hour.”
From 4 to 6 p.m., a special two hours of prayer will be held for all emergency responders in the 12-mile radius.
“What we’ve done is gone to all the police and fire stations, the Coast Guard and National Guard, and left flyers and prayer cards so they can give us the prayer concerns. One of our prayer captains, Diane Donahue, she comes from an emergency-responder family and tradition, so that was really in her heart, and she did a great job with that.”
All those attending will be given a small scripture book made specifically for the vigil.
“The past year, we looked at all the prayer cards that had ever been submitted to our congregation and came up with this long list of things — cancer, disease, addiction, poverty, all these different kinds of concerns,” Gundersen said. “This wonderful woman, Brooke Good, took that list and turned it on its head and created posters that are all the needs we have in response to those. So, hope, peace, protection, vision, salvation, courage, strength, forgiveness, trust.
“We made posters that are covering the whole sanctuary, and when you walk in the door you’ll get that little scripture booklet that has all of this beautiful encouraging scripture that’s based upon the needs of people.”
Although this is the first year Mariner’s Bethel will be holding the 24-hour prayer vigil, Gundersen said they have already received a “very positive response” from community members who have learned about it.
“There’re great gifts from both sides. I’ve had people come up to me who have never approached someone and now they’re noticing people in need,” she said. “Someone was sitting at the Beebe Express, getting their blood drawn, and they noticed someone sitting in the corner and walked over to them and happened to have their prayer cards in their purse. They asked if they needed prayer, gave them the card. The person filled it out and brought it in.”
As part of the Momentum campaign, Gundersen said the Mariner’s Bethel congregation hopes to expand its ministries.
“We hope in the next three years to build a new ministry building that will include a focus on some of our biggest ministries related to the community,” she said. “It’s a very joyous thing that we’re doing, looking at this new building. Right now, our current social hall has limited capacity. We want to be able to expand our outreach to people who are facing poverty and food crises.
“We have a ministry called Feed My Sheep that feeds 40 to 60 people a week. We want to be able to expand some of these things. We would love to help with the homeless situation every winter. Right now, in our current capacity, we can’t do that.”
Gundersen said Mariner’s Bethel is active in the community in which it prays because that simply follows Christ.
“This is what Christ’s mission was about. It was about reaching out to other people. We need to look around ourselves and see as Christ saw and hear as Christ heard, and be aware and reach out and help. If you look at the New Testament and you look at Christ’s mission, that’s what it was all about: healing people, reaching out, meeting their needs, feeding the poor, healing the sick, teaching.
“That’s why we try to do that with all our different ministries. Whether it’s teaching and caring for younger kids through Vacation Bible School or the Feed My Sheep program on Thursdays, giving people free food and feeding their soul at the same time... These are critical missions for healing people and healing the community.”
While the church takes action through its ministries, Gundersen said it is important to remember to pray.
“Medical studies and everything else show that prayer really does make a difference in lives.”
Anyone who wishes to participate in the vigil is being invited to do so and is encouraged, said Gundersen, to pray for the community and the world.
“Please feel welcome to come. We welcome everybody, and we believe you will experience rest in God and peace, and be able to contribute to a healthier community.
“What we’ve tried to do is make this a really open and loving opportunity for people to experience prayer in different ways. And to experience God’s love.”
Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church is located at 81 Central Avenue in Ocean View. For more information about the 24-hour prayer vigil, contact the church at (302) 539-9510.