LIHUE — As the National Day of Prayer nears, people of all faiths are preparing to bow their heads in prayer and celebrate their faiths.
“It’s an important day because it publicly recognizes the unity and prayer for the nation,” said Jeffrey Pears, chairman of the Interfaith Roundtable of Kauai (IRK), who is organizing a prayer gathering Thursday in honor of the day. “It crosses all barriers, all faith groups, and brings all of us together to share from our individual traditions; to pray for the leaders of the county, to pray for the leaders and for its people.”
It’s a sentiment shared by Kauai Island Ministries (KIM) organizer Niles Kageyama, who is also hosting a local celebration in recognition of the national event.
“It’s a great time for we as people who believe in prayer to come together and pray together,” Kageyama said. “We pray for a number of areas. We pray for the national government, we pray for the leaders of our nation, the leaders of our state, our county, the mayor and the leaders of our county.”
Held on the first Thursday of May, the National Day of Prayer is an annual observance that allows people of all faiths to pray for the nation and its people. This year’s theme for the event is “Hear Our Cry.”
But on Kauai, the two groups aren’t hosting their gatherings together — and neither group wanted to share why.
IRK will be celebrating from 9 to 11 a.m. on Thursday at the Civic Center Rotunda. That event will feature prayers, a proclamation by Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., songs performed by Sacred Earth Choir, and representatives who will share faith from their religions.
Right after that, KIM will hold its event from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at the County of Kauai Civic Center Rotunda, also featuring prayers and a proclamation. KIM has invited all Christian churches across the island to join the event that will feature different pastors, including John Zimmerman of Lihue Missionary Church and Pastor Larry Matsuwaki from Faith Christian Fellowship.
Similar messages, but separate times. When asked why they have chosen to have separate celebrations, Pears, Kageyama and KIM Pastor Roy Sasaki all declined to comment.
Some people said they would like the two groups to come together, but understood each wanting to host their own events, including Al Albergate, IRK member and representative of the SGI-USA Buddhist Association.
“We’re hoping and we’ve expressed to Kauai Island Ministries that we could do it in the same ceremony but at the same time, if they’re not ready, then we have to respect that as well,” Albergate said. “It’s not something that can be forced.”
As a congregation member of the Center for Spiritual Living who will be attending the IRK event, Debra Valetina is pleased with the choice.
“It doesn’t matter to me that there’s two,”she said. “I know that they’re both open and so as long as you have the opportunity to give thanks for your freedom and to be able to pray for compassion and kindness, it doesn’t bother me that there’s two. You get a choice and people like choice.”
The National Day of Prayer began in 1775 during the first call to prayer when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom on forming the nation, according to the NDP website. The event has grown considerably since then, and in 1952 it was officially declared an annual event through a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress and President Harry S. Truman.
“Since then, it’s been held every year and I think the leaders of our nation wanted to remember that prayer is very important four our entire nation,” Kageyama said.
“The National Day of Prayer signifies unity across people in the Unites Sates of America and it signifies a special day, no matter what faith group you belong to, to come and share your faith publicly with others of devotional backgrounds and beliefs,” Pears said.