Every first Thursday in May our nation’s faith-based communities come together to pray for the National Day of Prayer. In the city of Portage, this day has often been marked with a special Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the breakfast was no longer an option. But our local faith communities (spearheaded by the Portage Faith Action Network) were quick to adapt and instead planned a Prayer Chain to honor the day.
“We realized that there were so many essential workers that needed prayer and with the national day of prayer happening on May 7th, we thought it would be a great time to gather as many people as we can outside and with correct social distancing to pray,” said Shannon Burhans, CEO of Portage Township YMCA.
The Portage Faith Action Network was born out of the desire to bring local organizations together to address community needs. Around six months ago, the Network was formed with the goal of working together as faith-based organizations to tackle issues like homelessness or opioid addiction. Then the pandemic hit and a new need arose.
The Network’s first prayer event took place around a month ago as they gathered to pray over the Porter Regional Hospital Portage Campus and the NorthShore Health Center
“We prayed over the doctors and nurses and medical staff who are working long hours and are having to be away from their families during this pandemic and this challenging time,” Burhans said.
Recognizing the National Day of Prayer as an excellent opportunity to hold another prayer event, the Faith Action Network quickly decided to host a prayer chain. Local churches and faith-based organizations lined Central Avenue outside of Portage City Hall and stretched down to the fire station (safe social distancing in effect) as they took turns praying for several areas: church, government, families, education, business, military, media, and the City of Portage. The group also live-streamed the prayer chain on their Facebook page so anyone could participate safely from their own home.
“This is a day that brings all of the churches together for a moment to pray for the nation, local government, and all of the other areas. It’s joining together with people all across the country and we’re praying for the overall health of the nation both emotional, physical. This brings a tangible action to what we say we’re doing. Prayer is more important than it ever has been and so it’s a good time to show up and be visible with that. We’re letting our essential workers, local government, firefighters, police, and those risking themselves for our health and wellness know that we appreciate them,” said Chandra Ostrander, Director of Operations at Real Life Community Church.
Part of today’s goal was to spread the message of StrongerTogether that Mayor Sue Lynch, the Portage Township YMCA, and the Portage Food Pantry have worked hard to convey.
“This was a collaborative effort to make sure that we were serving our community as wholly as we possibly could. We hope that by people seeing all of these local faith communities and organizations coming together to pray over a common message, we will share that message of StrongerTogether,” Burhans said.
The 12 churches and many other faith-based organizations that took part in the prayer chain were a unified front to spread the same message. They’re here for the community.
“We want to make sure that God gets the glory for what we’re doing. It’s not about any one church. We’re all working together to make sure people feel cared for and to be a leading presence in the midst of this chaos and pandemic. It’s been really neat to watch all of our area groups and churches get together to figure out how we can best serve our community,” Ostrander said.
For community members who are struggling or in need of help, the Faith Action Network is ready to help. You can message them through their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PORTAGEFAN/
“We have a great group of churches and we are a resource for the community. If there’s anybody who is hurting or in need, they can message us and we will do our best to connect them to someone who can help fulfill that need,” Burhans said.
You can find more information and keep up to date with what is going on in the City of Portage through the city’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cityofportage/.