Officials and religious figures united in Fort Smith under the umbrella of faith Thursday.
Local residents gathered at the Fort Smith Courthouse for the Sebastian County National Day of Prayer event that was held Thursday at noon. During his welcome and call to prayer for the ceremony, Sebastian County Judge David Hudson said the National Day of Prayer is a vital part of the country's heritage.
"Since the first call to prayer in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation, the call to prayer has continued throughout our history," Hudson said. "Our nation has a strong spiritual heritage. The spiritual heritage of our founding fathers helped shape who we are as a nation, and it's where we came from. It's been 30 years since Ronald Reagan signed into law in 1988 the designation of the National Day of Prayer to occur on the first Thursday of each May."
The program for the event states President Harry Truman signed into law the observance of a National Day of Prayer on April 17, 1952, and designated it as a floating holiday.
The National Day of Prayer has great significance for Americans, Hudson said, as it enables them to recall and teach the way in which the founding fathers sought the wisdom of God when faced with critical decisions. America today is also a divided nation.
"We have so much unrest and all these different conflicts around the nation," Hudson said. "It is important for us to have prayer as a community, not just in our own churches, but in coming together with other denominations and other people throughout the community. America needs to come together as a nation, our churches, our families, our business and industry."
The National Day of Prayer belongs to all Americans, Hudson said. It is a day that transcends differences, bringing citizens from all backgrounds together.
After Hudson finished, representatives from a variety of religious institutions each conducted prayers concerning a particular subject.
Prayers were also conducted by certain local officials, including Fort Smith Police Chief Nathaniel Clark, Sebastian County Circuit Court Judge J. Michael Fitzhugh, and Fort Smith At-large City Director Don Hutchings, who is also senior pastor at Evangel Temple Assembly of God in Fort Smith.