|School prayer starts off year|
|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Wednesday, 05 August 2009 13:04|
Nearly 300 people filled the bleachers at the Camp Verde High School football field Sunday afternoon, but they weren’t there to cheer on their favorite sports team.
Instead, the community organized event was what those in attendance hope will become a Camp Verde tradition.
Soft music played from loudspeakers set up on the track, and voices mingled from the audience in prayer to God for the new school year.
There were pleas to keep the students safe, to have them set a positive example for their peers and the community, and for the Camp Verde Unified School District’s leaders to be guided by wisdom in their decisions.
Organizers weren’t sure how many people to expect.
Randy Strickland, pastor at Parkside Community Church, said originally they had hoped to have enough people to surround the entire field.
They lowered their expectations when they took into account the short notice, and the fact that this was the first time something like this had been done, but Strickland said he was pleased with how many people still showed up to pray in the 100-degree heat.
Strickland said he hopes the numbers continue to grow with each new school year.
The event had to be community organized, said Superintendent Dan Brown, given the nature of issues surrounding the separation of church and state, but he was excited to see the community come together and was honored to have been invited.
Church and state separation was at the center of a recent controversy involving the Camp Verde town government after a woman complained about a cross that a local food charity had put up in the town gym.
School Board President Tim Roth, who brings a Bible to meetings, instituted a moment of silence for board meetings, stopping short of calling for outright prayer.
But the members of the community, as private citizens, face no such restrictions on expressing their faith and used Sunday’s event as an opportunity to come together and do so publicly.
“If this [event] had been done when I was in school, I would have felt a lot more secure,” Anna Bassous, a recent Camp Verde High School graduate and event organizer, said.