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Santa Ynez Valley Prayer Breakfast

Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012

By: Dave Retz (Expired article)

Buellton, CA -

On May fifth, over 300 people met for breakfast at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott to celebrate the National Day of Prayer. An event first established under President Harry Truman, this was one of hundreds of thousands of similar meetings across the country. It's purpose: to encourage prayer for our communities and our nation.

This was, however, the first in the Santa Ynez Valley to coincide with the National Day of Prayer - an event that is set by each sitting President. The theme: one Nation under God.

It was not orchestrated by clergy or pastors - but by business people in the Valley who gave short presentations on the meaning of prayer in their personal lives. The event was organized by the Santa Ynez Valley Christian Businessmen's Connection.

The breakfast speakers and the general theme were introduced by Neil Steadman, who related the history of prayer in the formation and development of the United States - citing statements by Ben Franklin and Abraham Lincoln. The general theme focused on seven "pillars" of American culture as they relate to prayer: Family, Church, Education, Government, Military, Media and Business.

The five speakers were a slice of the community: a business executive, a radio station owner, a teacher, a retired military officer, and a financial consultant. They each presented their story in personal terms.

Rich Fisher, president of Pacific Design Technologies, addressed the pillars of family and church. He stressed the importance of prayer as a means of stabilizing the family, and identified a difference between "church" (which is a building) and "Church" which characterizes who we are as a people.

Gretchen Smith, a teacher at Santa Ynez Valley High School, discussed the 1962 landmark ruling that took prayer out of the classroom. However, she said, "just because a school is not religious doesn't mean there is not a belief system." She recalled the irony that as long as there are tests, students will be praying in the classroom; and as long as there are teenagers, teachers will be praying.

She related a story about one of her most demanding and troubled students that prompted her to pray for him - then had the joy of hearing him give his testimony several years later. Her common prayer: "the Lord will protect the kids and draw them to Himself."

Lt. Col. (ret.) Chris Nielsen, a investment advisor with the Edward Jones company, addressed the relation of prayer to our Government and the Military. He related a story about the US New Orleans, which sat dockside without power while being attacked in Pearl Harbor - defended herself with a "bucket brigade" of soldiers hand-carrying 50 pound ammunition shells. Their common prayer during the attack was led by Lt. JG Howell Forgy with the short: "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition." The sailors successfully defended the New Orleans and it was unscathed during the War.

Nielsen commented from his military experience "it is the commitment and the dedication that we get when we join each other in prayer; that is the manifestation of its phenomenal power." He emphasized the notion that the country can not go downhill "so long as we pray, that together we are committed."

Shawn Knight, head of Knight Broadcasting, discussed the state of the Media - especially that of radio. After characterizing the state of radio and television from the '50s to the present day - saying "we haven't just gone around a moral corner - we've jumped off a moral cliff."

He decried the state of radio as having reached a moral low, citing the most profitable (unregulated) radio show (Howard Stern) - in contrast to the shows of the past such as those led by Paul Harvey ("the rest of the story"). He appealed to those attending to make a difference, because "an end to public apathy begins with just one voice, one shared opinion."

Teri Harmon, a Senior Vice President at UBS Financial, raised the question "why isn't it possible to show our faith at work?" She identified a number of situations that reflect such a "dumbing down" of our personal beliefs, citing even simple things such as "why can't we say Merry Christmas?"

She (somewhat humorously) identified herself as having made the transition from being a "zombie Christian" to a "shy Christian" - but ended with a concise presentation of the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion ...", and simply asked: "what if we push back against the imposed silence?".

The quality of the hearty breakfast provided by the Buellton Marriott was exceeded only by the food for thought posed by the speakers. This was the right way to start a tradition.

The breakfast was sponsored by a number of organizations in the Santa Ynez Valley, including Elam, McCoy & Associates, Saarlos and Sons, Boardroom 246, A & A Pump and Well, Richmond Productions, Church at the Crossroads, MacFarlane Falette & Co LLP, Nielsen's Market, Cascade Capital Services, Hydrex Pest Control, David Lehman, Excelta Corporation, Old Mission Santa Ines, Jake & Jeanette Willemsen, Jones & Jones Architects, El Rancho Market, J. Dyhr Capital, Manny's Restaurant, and Valley Christian Fellowship.

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