Prayer breakfast implores people to ‘find common ground’


Gov. John Carney and Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long are surrounded by members of the St. Mark’s High School Concert Choir following the 57th annual Delaware Governor’s Prayer Breakfast at the Modern Maturity Center on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — Religious leaders from across a wide spectrum came together at the Modern Maturity Center to commemorate the 57th annual Delaware Governor’s Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning.

It turned out to be much more than just bacon, eggs and coffee, as a celebration of diversity and sharing of different religions views melded into one unified prayer for Gov. John Carney and the state.

Dr. Carol Quillen, president of Davidson College near Charlotte, North Carolina, and also the sister-in-law of Gov. Carney, served as the keynote speaker.

She was introduced by her sister Tracey Carney, wife of the governor.

“Standing here I’m filled with gratitude,” Ms. Quillen said, “gratitude for the opportunity to share this time of fellowship and prayer on this true gift of a morning.

“Occasions like this one, when people from many faiths and traditions come together in fellowship, call us to our best selves as one human family. It is good for kindred to live together in unity.”

Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long took to the podium to introduce Gov. Carney.

“We don’t have to come together to pray for our community, our country, our state, but we are all here today as members of faith and promise,” Lt. Gov. Hall-Long said.

“I know a person, who like myself and many others in here, really follow the mantra of ‘To who much is given, much is expected.’ And this is a governor that believes that.”

Gov. Carney said that, a day after attending the Delaware Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Service in Dover, getting together for a prayer breakfast helped to put it all into perspective.

Several prayers mentioned Delaware State Police trooper Cpl. Stephen J. Ballard, who was fatally shot last week while investigating a suspicious vehicle in a Wawa parking lot near Bear, and Lt. Steven R. Floyd Sr., who was killed during an inmate uprising at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna on Feb 1-2.

“This is a special day and we needed to get together,” Gov. Carney said. “This is an awesome responsibility. They don’t prepare you for some of these things, but we have a tremendous outpouring of support from the people across our state.

“(Thursday) we gather to pray for one another, for our state, for our country, for our military and for our law enforcement.”

The governor added, “(Today) we will bury Stephen Ballard and that’s going to be hard. But we can get through difficult times like this if we stick together and put our arms around one another. We’re going to lift that family up like we did with Lt. Floyd’s family a couple of months ago.”

Gov. Carney said the tight boundaries of the First State make it unique.

“I think the thing that’s really special about our state is we’re small. Everybody knows one another,” he said. “Neighbors take care of each other. They lift each other up in difficult times and celebrate the good times. They pray together and do everything together. That is what is so special about our state.”

The Governor’s Prayer Breakfast began with breakfast while students from St. Mark’s High School’s Concert Choir sang a variety of songs.

The Dover High School ROTC made the presentation of colors before Sgt. Maj. Kemberly Hines-Fairfax sang the national anthem and state treasurer Ken Simpler led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The invocation was given by Flora McConkie of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Rev. John G. Moore Sr. from Calvary Baptist Church.

One thing that really stood out at the Prayer Breakfast was a powerful Native American Prayer, which was delivered by Dick “Quiet Thunder” Gilbert, Jan “Running Dove” Durham and Bruce “Little Drummer” Morris.

Mr. Gilbert and Ms. Durham prayed while Mr. Morris kept a drum beat going.

“That’s a pretty awesome thing when you think about it to have all of the religious expressions represented (Thursday) is really, really special,” Gov. Carney said.

The governor did manage to draw some laughs from the crowd when he said, “In our neighborhood (in Claymont) you either went to Catholic school or you went to public school … and for the longest time I thought that the only religions were Catholic and public. If you weren’t Catholic, you were public.”

Dr. Quillen’s keynote speech focused largely on people needing to “find common ground.” She received a standing ovation.

The program concluded with a benediction that was shared by Iran Patel, the Interfaith Committee Chair of the Islamic Society of Delaware, and Rabbi Michael Beals, of Congregation Beth Shalom.

In a fitting gesture for the morning, they ended their prayer with a hug. They had, indeed, found common ground.

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