6 February 2023 |
On January 17, 2023, approximately 100 people from diverse faith traditions gathered for the fourth annual Religious Freedom Prayer Breakfast. The event, held in person for the second year in a row, recognized January 16 as National Religious Freedom Day in the United States, and included prayer for the blessing of the meal served, for elected officials, the community, the nation, global health and healing, peace, religious freedom, and unity of spirit.
Representatives of several religious groups prayed on these topics, including participants from Adventist, Jewish, Muslim, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Baptist, and non-denominational Christian faith traditions. Several North American Division (NAD) leaders and local church leaders participated through prayer and music.
During the prayer breakfast welcome, Orlan Johnson, director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the NAD, gave a warm greeting to guests, provided a brief summary of the program, and shared the significance of the January date for the event, emphasizing the historical framework printed on the event’s program.
Johnson stated that “many Americans take our religious freedom for granted, despite the fact that nearly 80 percent of the world’s population do not have the freedom to worship and practice their faith in whatever way they deem necessary and that religious freedom is a global concern, not only a national one.”
Johnson also went on to describe a recent, heartfelt encounter he had with Wes Moore, the incoming new governor of the state of Maryland. During the encounter the governor shared how, after the unexpected death of his father when he was three years old, the Takoma Park Seventh-day Adventist Church family provided food, love, and support to Moore’s family in their time of need and how that act of kindness helped to shape many of his future career choices, such as becoming the CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, New York City’s largest poverty-fighting organization, and creating the primary slogan of his run for governor to not leave any man behind.
Rabbi Craig Axler, from Temple Isaiah in Fulton, Maryland, offered the special remarks for the event, which again attained a fuller attendance after a scaled-back breakfast in 2022. “Part of the beauty of our American system is we all have the religious freedom to go out and to advocate, and to protest and to lift up, to influence and, ultimately, to seek the compromise that creates us a fairer, more just nation.”
Seven special prayers were offered during the event. The prayer for religious freedom was given by Calvin Watkins, an NAD vice president. Watkins gave thanks for the right to love and worship God and freedom to share that love with others.
After a stirring performance of “You Raise Me Up” by singer Jim Williams, the event closed with G. Alexander Bryant, NAD president, praying for unity of spirit.
“We ask for unity not uniformity,” said Bryant. “As we leave this place, bring us a spirit of unity in our work, in our relationships, and in our lives.”
The original version of this story is from the NAD News website.