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Coastal Voices: Prayer should not be used divisively

I am Steven Perez, Pastor of Hiouchi Community Fellowship. About the issue of prayer at the meetings of the county Board of Supervisors, I believe it is necessary for me to provide a different perspective. 

I support Supervisor David Finigan regarding prayer. As chairperson, David demonstrated wisdom that respects the broad definition of prayer across all religious and cultural expressions of faith so integral in our community. 

As a confessing Evangelic Christian, all my prayers center on Jesus Christ. In a public setting, my prayers may cause offense and even division. Some might say, “So what! You have a right to pray any way you want!” That is true, because this country politically protects my right to do so, yet this is not necessarily what the Christian faith teaches. 

Just so the public knows, within the Christian faith there is great emphasis on prayer. Our faith teaches many approaches to prayer. It is interesting, however; Jesus never taught that the process of prayer was to be the focal point at any public gathering. Rather, Jesus stressed that prayer should be private, a personal connection between a person and Jesus. If I were invited to pray, it would be a time of silence, a time of intercession for each of our leaders. 

More significant is not what I pray, but what each supervisor, as community leader, prays; that is what is important. However, I do not believe public prayer is Mr. Gitlin’s real issue. I am very concerned Mr. Gitlin would use this sacred expression of devotion as a political wedge for his procedural conflict with the Board chairperson. 

I love this community and respect the hard work of all our elected officials. We have faced many challenging issues of a great magnitude. There has always been a difference of opinion, and common ground has had to be forged. 

Mr. Gitlin, a word of admonishment: You need to learn more about the culture and values of this small but great community. We value differences, but not at the expense of cooperation. Your peers are all very opinionated, but they find a pathway through their respective differences. Mr. Gitlin, this is a small community; therefore your actions do not just affect the district that elected you. Your actions affect all of us. We talk! In the coffee shops, social gatherings, with our neighbors, family and friends, this is a point of discussion. 

Do not think for a minute because you wave the flag of prayer in the face of Christians we are going to rally to support you and your conflict with your peer. We are beginning to question the motivation behind your sudden interest in public prayer.

To all our elected officials, we appreciate your labor on behalf of our community. Many Christians are already praying for you as you carry the burden of leadership. I am confident our local pastors would be honored to pray with you individually should you sense the burden of responsibility too great. Our Christian faith teaches us we are to honor, respect and pray for our leaders! And so we do, and I do so from the depth of my heart.

 

Steven V. Perez is a resident of Crescent City.

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