NEW CUMBERLAND - On the last leg of the "God Answers Prayer" community prayer walk on Saturday, participants arrived at the George Hines Park gazebo to the strains of Leonard Cohen's modern-day hymn "Hallelujah."
It was a fitting end to an event that saw New Cumberland Christians of all stripes put aside their differences - under sunny skies, no less - and pray for the good of the community.
"We all serve the same God and work in the same community," the Rev. Robert Staub, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church, reminded the participants as they, at one point during the prayer walk, stood outside First Presbyterian Church.
ASKING GOD — Elizabeth Staub, 10, of New Cumberland, left, and her twin sister, Cassandra Staub, walk down Ridge Avenue on Saturday for the third-annual “God Answers Prayer” community prayer walk in New Cumberland. Participants walked about 1.5 miles to George Hines Park. -- Stephen Huba
"We could put one big bubble over this and have one big fellowship," he said.
Among the participating churches were: Trinity United Methodist Church, Point Pleasant United Methodist Church, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, First Presbyterian Church, New Cumberland Christian Church and New Cumberland Free Methodist Church.
Organizers of the third-annual prayer walk said the event is about Christians leaving the confines of their church buildings and putting some mileage on their faith. The ecumenical goodwill in evidence on Saturday now needs to be put to good use, said Pat Swiger, a member of the prayer walk organizing committee.
"My dream is to have the whole Northern Panhandle walking - including people on the other side of the river," she said. "We'll just see where it goes."
The prayer walk began in two places - the Hancock County Prosecutor's Office parking lot and the ballfields on South Chester Street - at 10 a.m. Saturday. From there, about 50 walkers made their way north, stopping and praying at various stations along the way.
One group walked along Ridge Avenue and stopped at the intersection of Porter Street, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Nixon Funeral Home/New Cumberland Rx Center, Trinity United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Church, the Hancock County Courthouse and New Cumberland City Park.
Pausing only long enough for a water break, participants prayed for families, first-responders, law enforcement personnel, schools, local government officials and people with substance abuse and legal problems. The walk was organized strategically to cover all parts of the city, including some known for illegal drug activity, Swiger said.
"We were assured that all the drug dealers were run out of town," she said. "Some of these areas are really depressed."
Participating clergy said they see value in the prayer walk because it gets lay people involved and demonstrates the power of prayer.
"Some of the things we've prayed about, we've seen some movement on this past year," Staub said.
"I think it helps people to see the needs of the community and to realize our dependence on God," said the Rev. Rick Tinsky, pastor of New Cumberland Christian Church.
Dorothy Swearingen, a Catholic member of the organizing committee, said the prayer walk is only one example of ecumenical cooperation in New Cumberland.
The New Cumberland Food Closet, an outreach of United Church Social Services, wouldn't be as effective as it is without the contributions of area churches.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for all denominations to work for one cause," she said.
The Food Closet distribution is done from First Presbyterian Church on the third Friday of the month.
Participating churches support it through monetary gifts, food donations and volunteer labor.
New Cumberland churches also cooperate for the annual Fall River Fest, the Easter sunrise service and the Down by the Riverside event in August.