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From local to global concerns, voices lifted in prayer at Westport gathering

Updated 9:00 pm, Thursday, May 2, 2013

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  • Rev. Paul Teske of St. Paul's Lutheran CHurch and wife Rivers helped lead the National Day of Prayer program Thursday on Veterans Green. Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News contributed
    Rev. Paul Teske of St. Paul's Lutheran CHurch and wife Rivers helped lead the National Day of Prayer program Thursday on Veterans Green. Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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By Jarret Liotta

Their numbers were small, but their resolve was strong. A dozen people congregated Thursday on Veterans Green for a powerful purpose: to pray for the nation and the world.

For the fourth year in a row, Westporters joined in the National Day of Prayer, now in its 62nd year.

"All across the country people gather for a prayer, to pray for the nation ... and different aspects of the community," said the Rev. Paul Teske of St. Paul's Lutheran Church.

This year's local theme included a prayer for Israel and its people. The keynote speaker at the 45-minute event, held under bright midday skies, was Rabbi Yehoshua Hecht of Beth Israel of Westport-Norwalk. He read the blessing his late father, Rabbi Abraham B. Hecht, gave before the U.S. Senate in 1966.

"I think it's fantastic," Hecht said of the event and dedication. "I think Israel has been maligned in a number of faith communities today."

"No country is perfect," he said, but Israel has shown itself to be "way off the charts in goodness and kindness."

"Forgive us as Americans and as Christians where we have wronged them throughout history," Holly Tilton of Norwalk said in prayer.

She asked that all different religious community and congregations be connected, "so we can move forward and be a greater mass to help the masses."

"And I thank you for bringing greater unity to the churches of Westport," she said.

Prayers were said for elected officials and leaders, including First Selectman Gordon Joseloff. Prayers were given for first responders, military veterans and their families, teachers and workers of all kinds, for all facets of the community.

"We just want to reach out and pray for this great town of Westport," said Gregg Healey, who helped lead the event.

"We've been very active in the National Day of Prayer for many years," said Lois Petty, a St. Paul's board member who organized the event, which used to be held in Norwalk. "We believe in ordinary people coming together with a heart to pray."

"If there is no power in prayer, than I'm in the wrong business," said Teske.

He said that crises, large and small, bring people together to pray. "What are the first things people do?" he said. "I don't care how secular they are."

"It's almost in our D.N.A. as a country," he said. "At the core of us, people pray."