Dozens gather in Milford for non-denominational community prayer

Attendees of the Milford Community Day of Prayer at the Bicentennial Park on Tuesday evening. (Special to the Delaware State News /Ariane Mueller)

MILFORD—Several dozen members of the Milford community gathered in Bicentennial Park on Tuesday night for a non-denominational prayer meeting meant to provide hope and support through turbulent times.

“We’re living in a very different time, like I’ve never seen before in my life,” said long-time Milford resident Rev. Jeanel Starling, one of the event’s key organizers. “Prayer helps sometimes to soothe what’s happening with people, and a lot’s going on.”

She noted COVID-19, anxiety around the possibility of children returning to school and the protests surrounding the death of George Floyd as happenings that led her and other Milford locals to call for collective prayer. Several members of the Milford Police Department, including Chief Kenneth Brown, participated in the event.

Milford Mayor Archi Campbell, left, bows his head in prayer at the Milford Community Prayer Day on Tuesday evening. (Special to the Delaware State News /Ariane Mueller)

“I just felt with the George Floyd situation that our community needed to come together for a time of prayer,” Ms. Starling said. “Over the years we have worked together to meet with police in the event that something happens.”

The tone struck by the five preachers who led prayers at the event in three languages – including English, Spanish and Haitian Creole – was positive and apolitical.

“Our goal was to make it diverse, so that it wasn’t just African-American folks doing it,” Ms. Starling said.

Rev. Dianne Deming of Milford’s First Presbyterian Church was one of the preachers Ms. Starling asked to participate to represent Milford’s white community.

Rep. Bryan Shupe with his daughter Evelyn, 4, join the Milford Community Day of Prayer at the Bicentennial Park. (Special to the Delaware State News/Ariane Mueller)

“I think now is a time that our community needs peace and prayer more than ever,” Ms. Deming said. “It brings us together and unites us in a common purpose.”

Elder Ernesto Rodriguez of the non-denominational Jesus Love Temple led a prayer in Spanish. He is a native of Puerto Rico who has lived in Milford for 48 years.

“When we pray, we move God, his heart,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “We came to support the community.”

His wife Alicia Rodriguez, who has lived in Milford her entire life, stressed the need for community members to provide mutual support.

“Times are hard and with the pandemic and everything going on, people are hurting,” she said. “We have to reach out to one another to lend a helping hand. … It doesn’t matter who you are, what you are, where you come from, what your background is. It’s just being loved and showing the love.”

In addition to Chief Brown, several local political figures appeared at the event including Rep. Brian Shupe , R-Milford, of the Delaware General Assembly, Milford Vice Mayor Jason James and Milford Mayor Archie Campbell.

“I’m not really a real religious kind of person,” Mayor Campbell said, but “the good lord brought me here to Milford.”

He reassured the crowd that although the “Lord works in strange ways… he works well and he takes care of us.”

At the end of the event Ms. Starling thanked everyone for coming. In 2016, she came out of retirement to lead the Union Wesley United Methodist Church in Frankford, which is an about an hour’s drive from her home in Milford.

“We just wanted our voice to be heard, that there are people who love the lord who are very concerned about what’s going on and who want it to be peaceful in our community,” she said. “Prayer is the key. I believe it’s the binding force for people.”