Members of many Hays churches gathered Wednesday evening for an interdenominational worship service that has become a long-standing tradition, marking its 26th year.
Festival of Faith took place in Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center on the Fort Hays State University campus. The event was more than an hour long, including musical performances, congregational hymns and prayer.
This year’s theme was “Hays Day of Prayer,” with representatives from several churches leading prayers for specific areas of the community such as military/public service, education, business and churches.
“In a week when our country has again known terrible violence, it feels important to come together as Christian brothers and sisters and to pray and to offer our solace to God and to pray for the church that steps into so many places of pain in the world,” said the Rev. Kathy Bannister of FHSU's Methodist Campus Center before she led a prayer for the church.
While Bannister made reference to the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday, other leaders acknowledged local Christians could be struggling with different challenges, or simply feeling overwhelmed by events outside the community.
Attendees were encouraged to continue pressing into their faith to find comfort and hope.
“At times, it may seem like our world’s a little crazy and a little out of control,” said Bill Meagher, Thomas More Prep-Marian campus minister. “We know as Christians, when things are out of control, when the problem is bigger than us, what we do is we give that problem to God. … When you read Scriptures over and over again, the message you hear is turn to God with prayer and tonight, we do that.”
The event was on a Wednesday instead of a Sunday this year in efforts to boost attendance, particularly among church youth groups. Christians of all ages attended the service, and the youngest speaker was a sophomore at TMP.
Lane Werth, accompanied by Barbara Wagoner — a former staff member at the Catholic high school — read a prayer he had written for families and education. Wagoner described Werth as creative and selfless, displaying a painting of Jesus he had surprised her with as a retirement gift.
Werth said he has been on a journey to deepen his faith, in part by becoming more involved with the Catholic Youth Organization and attending a “One Bread One Cup” youth program.
“We ask that you would not only grant us the strength to hold steadfast in our Christian faith through these times of difficulty, but that you also grant us the peace to live according to your will without ridicule or judgment,” Werth said, as he also prayed for the community’s educators “who day in and day out supply us with information so we can go out and change the world.”