On Saturday January 6th at Bellgrove Missionary Baptist Church, 219 Martin Luther King West, Syracuse, members of the areas clergy held a City-Wide Prayer Ceremony, welcoming newly elected and appointed leaders. At 4:00 P.M. Citywide Prayer commenced as people braved the snow and chilling cold to engage in the service; The fruition of Deputy Mayor, Sharon Owen’s vison, as coordinated by Cora Thomas.
Rev. Erik Eure officiated the service which included Rev. Steve Walker President of the (IMA) Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Syracuse & Vicinity and incoming President Rev. Bryant Gerald, Sr.; Northeastern Missionary Baptist Association’s Moderator Rev. Derrick Tanyhill; Syracuse Concerned Clergy Rev. Roberson; Mohammed Elfki Imam of the Islamic Society of Central New York, and Reverends’ David Pilch and Vincent Aquilino. Additional participants from the Faith Community included, but were not limited to, Rev. Phil Turner of Bethany Baptist Church, Rev. HB Alex of Victory Temple Fellowship Church, who along with accompanying singers provided several inspirational gospel selections. Rev. Roosevelt Baum, Rev. Nebraski Carter of Living Water COGIC, Rev. Jaime, Rev. Galloway, and Rev. Colette Matthews-Carter, were also in attendance and contributed to facilitation of the program.
Rev. Bryant Gerald, Sr. of the IMA, set the tone for the event and the new administration with his invocation,
“….This afternoon we pray God, that you will impart that favor upon this celebration and your blessings upon these elected officials as we offer prayer of comforting, protection and guidance. As they embark on this unfamiliar territory, be a lantern to their feet and a light onto the pathway. I pray for the spirit of servitude, as they dedicate themselves to the cause of their lives. Lead and guide them with wisdom as they serve the people, the community, in this great city of Syracuse. Grant them vision for direction, wisdom for leadership and insight for decision making, let this prayer service be endowed with your presence and power, this we pray …..”
Those participating in the blessing included; Mayor Ben Walsh, Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens, Helen Hudson President of the Syracuse Common Council, Monica Williams Onondaga County Legislature, Judge Derrick Thomas Syracuse City Judge, Minister Mark Muhammed Commissioner of Education, Linda Ervin Onondaga County Legislature, Michael J. Monds Fire Chief City of Syracuse, Pamela Hunter New York State Assembly, Latoya Allen 4th District Common Council, and Khalid Bey Councilor-at-Large Syracuse Common Council.
Throughout the short program, aforementioned members of our communities of faith, read scripture, discussed the importance of prayer and the significance of prayer in our lives. As Deputy Mayor Owens extolled in her comments, “I knew, I couldn’t do this without him (God)”.
Mohammed Elfki Imam of the Islamic Society of Central New York, offered words of encouragement delivering a message that translates “make my mission easy for me” and “unknot my tongue, so they may understand my speech”. Elfki, ending his remarks by saying, “Seek my help. Reach out to us.”
Rev. Alex also provided extended welcoming remarks to the assembled, striking a personal note, reminiscing about meeting his wife over 35 years ago, this year they’ll celebrate 35 years of marriage. He relayed a story about her immigration to the United States in 1973, which was precipitated by her father’s attendance at Syracuse University to complete a degree program.
“It was then that they reached out to at that time, Congressman William Walsh, who did something innovate, challenging and creative, to expedite their opportunity to gain citizenship and the American dream…I know you’re saying, well ‘why would I use that to give a welcome’. I use that to say, thank you to Mayor Walsh for daring to follow a legacy of doing at times, what seems to be daring and innovative.
Becoming Mayor of Syracuse at a time when so many are looking to regain hope, promise and a resurgence of employment. Right here in Syracuse, the Salt City. Mayor Walsh and Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens, you along with the common council face a formidable task, but I know with faith and determination and support that are in this room and others, that task will be completed. So we gather here today to say we welcome not only to the Walsh team, to the task through prayer and through this gathering. But also to say welcome everyone here, to the mission, to the assignment that prayer and faith together, can move this city into its destiny and its heritage of change.
So, we welcome the challenge, and from all of us and from all of those that will speak, pray and sing , we share together in this house of faith, knowing that if one, as the scripture says, can put a thousand to flight, two can put ten thousand with God on our team. We are welcome yes, we all are welcome together, to feel and to be welcome in City Hall, as well as in this house of faith, to work together through the mission of making Syracuse again the Salt City. The city of preserving, power and passion, we embrace this welcome, and with that we say, God’s peace and good journey.”
After remarks and reading of scripture, Mayor Walsh delivered a message to those assembled at Bellgrove Missionary Baptist Church,
“I want to thank all of you. It is so humbling to be in this position, and this experience has been life altering in so many different ways. But I think one of the things I haven’t talked about, and perhaps this is the appropriate place to discuss this.
Many in this room, in your own way have bought me closer to God. Like many of you, I was raised in church. I go to Most Holy Rosary, and like many people, my spiritual path has not always been a straight line. Coming into the many houses of worship, that you’ve allowed me to come into, have bought me closer to God, and I thank you for that. It couldn’t have come at a more important time, as I stand here before you, to serve you, to have God with me, and Sharon with me, and all of you with me, I am truly blessed.”