"A Gathering for Prayer" will convene at 6 p.m. Monday at High Mill Church, 1920 Schneider St. NE.

PLAIN TWP.  A nation deeply divided over politics, race, and even faith has spurred some local lay people and faith leaders to organize an election-eve prayer service for healing and unity.

"A Gathering for Prayer" will convene at 6 p.m. Monday at High Mill Church, 1920 Schneider St. NE.

Organizers stress that the service is a non-political, ecumenical event that will focus on healing and national unity.

Pat Fehlman, retired executive director of the Stark County Board of Developmental Disabilities, got the idea from a friend following a discussion about the state of the nation.

Fehlman said she initially planned to host a simple gathering in her home, but "the more I prayed, the more I felt God wanted us to make it bigger."

Chuck Schumacher, High Mill pastor emeritus, said the church was created by God to be the purveyor of healing and peace.

"God took Israel into the wilderness and gave them a message," he said. "In 1 Peter 2:9, we're called to the same thing. The Gospel's mission begins in Israel, and it is old and new. We're called to be his hands. What we want to do Monday night is to bring the good news that God is a restorer of the breach. We are God's mouthpiece. That's all we want to be on Monday night."

II Chronicles 7:14

"We want to bring people together in unity," added the Rev. Al Walker, co-pastor of Christ Church in Mineral City. "I believe nothing is too hard for God. I've learned that love and mercy have no color. "

Schumacher said people who love God are singularly commanded to love others.

The evening also will focus on worship and repentance. Citing II Chronicles 7:14, he added, "That's our standard for Monday night. We want it to be the beginning of change in our community. We're inviting anyone to come."

"If we're going to heal our country, it can't be just a yearly thing," Fehlman added. "This is a start, but how do you reach reach people who are not believers? Somehow, we've got to figure out ways to break down the divisions."

"We are polarized," Schumacher said. " Because we want our view to be the only point of view."

Fehlman said her four children are divided over the current administration in Washington, and that it's become a subject to be avoided at family gatherings.

"And we're a close-knit family," she said. "But we've learned there are certain things we no longer talk about. That's sad."

Fehlman said she also has friends who fear for their jobs if they openly express political views.

"Others are scared of other kinds of harassment," she said. "We want to be able to dialogue without fear of retribution. Anything we can do to bring openness would be helpful. We've become a broken country."

Beyond the walls

"People think that because we disagree, we're enemies," Walker said. "And that's not so."

He urges Christians to share the Gospel beyond the walls of their churches.

"Unless we set the example and be the example, they'll never get it," he said.

Schumacher, citing Proverbs 11:11, said people are searching for truth and authenticity.

"They far too often see the church as a tradition that doesn't work," he said. "We're living in the times Jesus talked about. We're seeing in other countries the same type of rancor."

Schumacher said he and Walker recently returned from a 20,000-mile mission trip to Ukraine, Armenia, Israel, and Honduras.

"They love America and see us as the only hope, which is wrong," he said. "But they're fearful if we collapse."

Schumacher said he's concerned about the effects such division is having on young adults, admitting that his invitation to Monday's event has been met with skepticism from teens and 20-somethings.

"They think it's some kind of political rally," he said. "They want no part of politics as it's modeled. I'm praying for God to raise up young people with a heart to serve. We need to re-energize this generation. They're our future leaders."

For more information, call High Mill at 330-497-3166.

Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or charita.goshay@cantonrep.com
On Twitter: @cgoshayREP