Twenty-five churches associated with the Ashland County Ministerial Association collaborated with local elected officials to hold A Call To Sacred Assembly in a small town in Ohio. The event occurred on Aug. 23 at Freer Field and featured speakers like Mayor Matt Miller, State Rep. Darrell Kick and County Commissioner Emmitt Justice.
The main program consisted of prayer movements led by 13 pastors and community leaders. The bulk of the event, which brought together many denominations, took place on a stage area on the side of a barn in Freer Field. Hundreds of participants sat on lawn chairs and under shade structures in the August heat, maintaining social distancing while praising, singing, and repenting their sins.
When asked by the Times-Gazette about the COVID-19 pandemic, John Bouquet, pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in Savannah, responded, " we felt like we needed a spiritual response."
The pastors, according to Bouquet, have taken inspiration for the event from a verse from the Book of Joel.
"A sacred assembly, if you take a peek in the Bible at Joel 1:13-14, is a public calling for repentance from our sins and consecration unto God," Bouquet said. "Because he's our healer, he's the reconciler of all human relationships that go wrong, he's the answer for every question that we have, and faith is to replace fear. And that's what this event is."
After the event, one clergyman, David McNeely said that the community is getting a glimpse of the blessings that God has in store for Ashland.
"There is a sense that God is doing many great things," says Pastor David McNeely of New Life Community Church. "God is re-writing the history of Ashland. I believe with all my heart there will be a great harvest by what has been prayed for here tonight. We are beginning to see the activity and orchestration of God."
In an interview with The ChristianPost, McNeely reflected on the great success of the event.
"It was a wonderful, prayerful evening for our community," McNeely recalled. "We're going to make it an annual event. We're going to at least do it once a year."
At the event, Mayor Matt Miller dedicated the city to Jesus Christ and expressed his hope that all citizens of Ashland would find the love of Jesus Christ.
"May this be a land where He rules supreme," Miller stated. "May this be a land where His love is genuinely felt by believers and nonbelievers alike."
Miller additionally spoke about the relative success of Ashland in keeping COVID-19 cases low. "I believe with all my heart that is why God has protected the city of Ashland during one of the most tumultuous times in my lifetime and the city's history," Miller said in reference to the strong Christian community of Ashland.
McNeely also spoke about the relative safety of Ashland and of his church throughout the pandemic. According to McNeely, "Ashland County has been pretty blessed, we've had very little impact from COVID. ... As of last week, there were no active cases."
"The church did not see too much of a drop off ... in offerings. People were mailing in their offerings and doing electronic giving," he added.
Joel Penton, the Executive Director of Lifewise Academy also prayed for Ashland's public schools at the event. Penton is working with the ACMA to bring Bible education to all of the public school districts in Ashland County, according to FrontLine Ohio.
"For over two generations the Bible has been removed from the nation's education system and now the country is reaping the harvest," Penton said. "However, an
Ohio law passed in 2014 allows high school students to receive school credits for Bible classes. In fact, Van Wert, Ohio has ninety-five percent of their elementary public school students taught from the Bible every week. It is transforming the next generation."
Other speakers included Amanda Nichols, Executive Director of Project One, who gave a testimony about the power of prayer against her husband's drug addiction, and Dr. Carlos Campos, President of Ashland University and Theological Seminary, who asked the crowd to pray for repentance at college campuses across America.