The new COVID-19 normal of “social distancing” meant there were few if any handshakes on Thursday in front of Richmond Hill City Hall.
There was plenty of prayer, however, as a dozen of the city’s religious leaders of various denominations gathered at the behest of Mayor Russ Carpenter.
There, they took part in unified prayer vigil in response to the coronavirus pandemic and its uncertain impact on both the physical and economic health of the city’s residents.
And so it was that the assembled pastors, one after another and for nearly an hour, prayed that God give man the strength, wisdom and faith to deal with COVID-19, which has changed the way life is lived in countries around the world.
They prayed for pandemic victims around the world. They prayed for strength. They prayed for wisdom. They prayed for the world’s leaders.
They prayed for courage, and for encouragement.
They prayed for understanding.
They asked God to look after those on the front lines in the pandemic – the health care providers and first responders, the law enforcement officers.
They prayed for all who have to make decisions.
They prayed for comfort. They prayed for forgiveness.
They prayed for man to forgive.
“Help us put aside how this came to be,” prayed Richmond Hill Police Department Assistant Chaplain Jim Brackeen. “Help us put aside what should have been done or what wasn’t done. Help us put aside throwing stones.”
They prayed for unity and to show they need not be afraid.
“Fear has no precedent in our lives,” intoned Pastor Justin Click of New Life Church. “Fear has no authority in our lives.”
And they prayed, as Bishop Curtis Curry of Incite Church said, “Because we are reminded that if we call you, you will answer.”
Before the vigil, Carpenter said he’d invited pastors as “an effort to show our community and residents we’re turning to the one authority that can cure this illness and can help our economy,” and that he hoped it would help alleviate the anxiety of residents who are uncertain what the future will bring.
Near the end, Pastor Steve Lane of New Beginnings Community Church asked God to help all who live in the city, who suffer with “a lot of anxiety, and a lot of fear,” though the answer, he said, was faith.
And he said the city was blessed.
“We're blessed because we have a mayor who will say, ‘I don’t have all the answers, but I know who does,’” Lane said.