Thanks to an invitation from my friend Steve Cuss, pastor of Discovery Church in Broomfield, Colo., I got to join him and about 1,000 other faith community, civic and business leaders in downtown Denver for the 25th annual Colorado Prayer Luncheon earlier today. Here’s what stood out to me, besides the cheesecake and the fact that the Colorado Convention Center where the luncheon was held is really big:
- In a pre-lunch breakout session, Dave Runyon of CityUnite and the Denver Leadership Foundation shared from his experiences building partnerships between the faith, government and business sectors in Arvada, Colo. It was encouraging to hear him highlight similar sorts of efforts happening all over the Denver metro area. “The sleeping giant for [community] volunteers is sitting in the pews every week,” he said. “They want to serve.” Speaking to government leaders he asked, “What would it look like to leverage the church in your community?”
- During the same session, Jay Pathak of the Mile High Vineyard spoke about the “Seek the peace of your city” passage from Jeremiah 29. He asked faith communities to consider defining success as being a valuable asset to the city in which they reside. “Maybe the report card for the success of a church is the city [it’s in] itself,” he said, noting that his hope is to see “a network of networks” created in Denver with collaboration and friendship as its foundation. Incidentally, Runyon and Pathak have co-authored a book on neighborliness that will come out in August.
- After the meal, John Hickenlooper, the governor of Colorado, and Cary Kennedy, the deputy mayor of Denver made some brief remarks. Several local leaders prayed and others read a passage from the Bible, one from the Book of Psalms (40:1-11) and one from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew (5:1-12).
- The keynote speech was given by Ambassador Tony Hall, a professed Christian who said he had to go to Congress in order to find Jesus. (Yes, I’m sure there’s an interesting story there, but he didn’t go into details.) Hall has served as a small business leader, a state legislator, a Democratic congressman from Ohio and a U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome. He also wrote the book Changing the Face of Hunger, which has one of the longest subtitles I’ve heard — “The Story of How Liberals, Conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, and People of Faith are Joining Forces in a New Movement to Help the Hungry, the Poor, and the Oppressed.” As an expert in hunger-related issues, Hall’s story of being in Ethiopia during the 1984 famine hit especially close to home. He said 7,000 kids per day died during the famine. Mothers would hold their kids up to him, pleading for him to do something to help them. In a 15-minute span, Hall said he personally saw 25 children die.
- According to Hall, there are 2,500 verses in the Bible that deal with the call to serve people in need, from orphans to widows to the hungry.
- Several times, Hall mentioned his years-long friendship with John Nakamura, his prayer partner who travels with him on all his trips from North Korea to the Sudan to Denver. I like that — going two-by-two, just like Jesus’ disciples.
- My favorite moment of the luncheon — during the closing prayer, a local pastor led everyone in reciting the Lord’s Prayer (or the Our Father, depending on your denominational persuasion).