Prayer service one of ‘reconciliation’
Spotsylvania County Administrator Doug Barnes opened Thursday’s National Day of Prayer service on the courthouse lawn by reading from the fifth chapter of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.
There, the apostle speaks of each Christian’s duty to be a minister of reconciliation.
Before Barnes—front and center—sat Hashmel Turner, an African–American dressed in the blue wool uniform of the 23rd Infantry Regiment of the United States Colored Troops. Beside Turner sat Aaron Custalow, a bearded young man dressed in the gray wool uniform of a Confederate soldier.
Less than a mile away, re-enactors had begun setting up tents to take part in four days of activities commemorating the 150th anniversary of the battles of Spotsylvania Court House and the Wilderness.
The prayer service, with about 100 people in attendance, served as the kickoff for the events recalling those battles—battles that had bloodied farmlands in Spotsylvania and Orange counties and pitted North against South, brother against brother, and emanated from a barbaric practice that had enslaved and oppressed men, women and children.
Spotsylvania Circuit Judge David Beck, speaking from II Corinthians 5:15–18 said that it is the duty of all to be part of the effort to mend the souls of men.
He said people should not be viewed from an earthly perspective but as children of God who reach out to one another “as ambassadors for Christ.”
“And that is my prayer for each and every one of us, that we may—in those places where we live and work—indeed be those ambassadors,” Beck said.
Board of Supervisors member Ann Heidig was the first of a series of public officials to pray during the 50-minute service. She read from a prayer offered by George Washington, commenting that “a lot of people say the Founding Fathers didn’t really believe in God but we know they did.”
Deputy County Administrator Mark Cole prayed for state leaders and for men and women in the military.
Sheriff Roger Harris shared that it had been “a horrific week,” referring to Monday’s death of 34-year-old Deputy Bryan Berger during training.
Harris then asked for prayers for the deputy’s widow and his parents, which Chaplain Ron Owens, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, provided as he prayed for public safety employees.
County Human Resources Director Rose Heyward prayed that the county’s employees would have hearts like David and Solomon.
And school division Chief Financial Officer LaShahn Gaines launched into her prayer by reciting John 3:16, which declares the enormity of God’s love for mankind in giving up his son to reconcile sinful man to himself.
It was the sinful heart of man that Aaron Custalow confessed as he began the prayer of reconciliation that closed the service.
Custalow and Turner, both ministers, knelt and joined hands for that final prayer.
“I ask you for mercy from heaven, God, for the blood that has been shed, even on this ground here in Spotsylvania,” Custalow prayed as a representative of Virginia and the South.
“I pray, Lord, that you would have mercy for the blood that was shed in the name of anger and hatred and pride and selfish ambition and racism.”
Turner continued the prayer, invoking God’s promise in II Chronicles 7:14, that if his people would humble themselves, pray and turn from their wicked ways, then he would heal their land.
There has been “so much pain, so much blood, suffering, the deaths that came about,” Turner said.
“Heal this nation of ours. I know that you can. I pray that you will do it real soon.”
After the service, Bruce Hennington, a retired priest from the Catholic Diocese of Madison, Wis., said he was amazed by what he witnessed.
He traveled to Spotsylvania to take part as a re-enactor, serving as a chaplain with the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, which fought at the Wilderness.
“Madison, Wis., is the politically correct center of the universe,” Hennington said. “This is something that could never have happened on the public grounds in Madison. This was a magnificent event.”
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972