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National Day of Prayer: Separate events held in Leesburg after concerns over exclusivity

Pastor Michelle Thomas joined by interfaith leaders in Leesburg. Times-Mirror/Chantalle Edmunds
Two prayer gatherings were held in Leesburg Thursday on the National Day of Prayer after concerns that one gathering, organized by Loudoun Awakening, wasn't inclusive enough.

Pastor Michelle Thomas of Holy & Whole Life Changing Ministries joined forces with the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Sterling and Loudoun Inter-Faith Bridges to organize a separate event from the one orchestrated by Loudoun Awakening and the National Day of Prayer local task force.

“On the National Day of Prayer we want to reflect the nation,” Thomas told reporters during a press conference outside the Loudoun County government center, where both prayer services were held. “What we are doing is reflecting the nation and accuracy that all diverse religions have the right signed into law to come together and pray, we just choose to do it together."

Ten different faith groups, including Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhism and Baha'i faiths gathered to take part in what was called “the Loudoun interfaith day of prayer.”

Chairwoman of Loudoun Inter-Faith Bridges Paria Akhavan, who was representing the Baha'i faith, said she was delighted with the diversity of those in attendance.

“We do a lot of work with community, building bridges through dialogue and prayer,” Akhavan said. “The hope is eventually to be elevated in unity and have all faiths in just the one room.”

Loudoun Awakening's event, for those from the Judeo-Christian faith, was held separately at noon and included prayers based on seven themes; government, church, military, family, education, media and business. Prayers were led by clergy and non-clergy before a packed auditorium.

Loudoun Awakening's prayer service. Times-Mirror/Chantalle Edmunds

On Wednesday Thomas voiced concerns over the annual prayer day event organized by Loudoun Awakening.

“There's thousands of invites sent out, but only three or five African-American pastors have been invited,” Thomas said. “Those are the same pastors who are invited each year."

Patricia Phillips, a representative of Loudoun Awakening and the organizer of the Loudoun National Day of Prayer local task force, refuted Thomas's claim that the event was exclusive.

“We haven't sent invitations to every church, but we have reached out to churches of all ethnicity,” Phillips said. “I think really highly of Michelle. I feel really badly that Michelle was offended. We will all be praying for our country and state.”

Phillips told the Times-Mirror Thomas will absolutely get an invitation next year.

Thomas remained skeptical today on whether there would be a single prayer gathering uniting all faiths next year.

“Maybe over the course of the next 365 days we can make some headway. If not we will be back again to do the Loudoun interfaith day. It has to happen, there must an opportunity for people of every faith to express themselves in unity if they so choose,” Thomas said.


I’m a tad skeptical that this isn’t much more than a particular pastor got offended SHE wasn’t asked to speak, and and jumped on this as a great excuse to hold a press conference.

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

In the Bible, Paul calls on the Corinthians to end their dissensions and share the unified outlook of the Gospel. Discord arises when we forget that we belong not to human leaders or institutions, but to Christ who was crucified for us. Indeed, the unifying word of the cross of Christ is the center of the Gospel and the power of almighty God’s salvation. God desires that His people be united in purpose.

None of us need to study this situation in Corinth in order to comprehend that this same scenario has been repeated in every generation of the Christian Church to this very day. We understand and acknowledge that we are as guilty of our divisions today as the early followers of Jesus were in Paul’s time.

Slow news day, huh LTM?

Most segregated time in America-  Sunday mornings

Pastor Thomas you heard @LocoLoco, how dare you not go along to be along and your non white Christian have the audacity to have your won program.  Stop making white people in Loudoun uncomfortable.

It would have been good if Loudoun Awskening had made its National Day of Prayer service more ecumenical and not just a Christian service.  These have been dominated by Christian groups for years without much inclusion of any other faiths except maybe Judaism.  But it certainly would have been even nicer if Michelle Thomas and her crew of Islam, Bahai, etc. had partnered with Loudoun Awakening instead of going off on their own and grandstanding in the newspapers.  It seems this pastor has a very inflated ego and is always looking for pressure points to polarize the community and aggrandize herself and her church.  Her hype about the graves being disturbed by the Belmont Ridge Road project was just an example of that.  All this could have been worked out behind the scenes so there would be ONE unifying service for National Prayer Day.  But it seems both Patricia Phillips, an ardent Christian conservative, and Michelle Thomas, the Al Sharpton of Loudoun County, have political agendas and will not come together on even doing a united National day of Prayer service.

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