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Governor will host second prayer breakfast -- with COVID-19 precautions
Daily Oklahoman - 11/29/2020
Nov. 29--Gov. Kevin Stitt and his wife Sarah will once again host the Oklahoma Governor's Prayer Breakfast, this time with COVID-19 precautions.
The 2021 event is set for February at the National Cowboy Hall & Western Heritage Museum like last year's, but people will be seated in accordance with the CDC's social distancing guidelines.
The event's theme will be "Igniting Hope Through Prayer" and keynote speaker will be best-selling author Bob Goff.
The breakfast is being coordinated once again by Oklahoma Capitol Culture, a non-political and non-lobbying 501c3 organization. The Rev. Joel Harder, leader of the group, said like 2020, there will be other, smaller prayer breakfasts occurring simultaneously across the state. The event at the Cowboy Hall will be livestreamed to the smaller host sites.
Harder said the smaller gatherings will be especially important this year because they will allow more Oklahomans to participate in the faith gathering in smaller group settings where social distancing will be practiced. He said there were 44 smaller sites including civic organizations, ministerial alliances and faith congregations across the state last year. The hope is to increase the number of these smaller gatherings to 80 in all 77 counties around Oklahoma.
"Everyone of us are impacted by the pandemic and the need to unite in prayer as a state is needed now more than ever," Harder said. "Every possible precaution will be in place as we practice those things we've longed believed -- belief in the hope, healing, and power that comes through prayer."
Stitt, in an email, talked about the prayer gathering's importance.
"Sarah and I share a strong belief with our fellow Oklahomans in the power of prayer. Prayer moves the heart of God," he wrote.
"The Oklahoma Governor's Prayer Breakfast invites Oklahomans across our state to unite together and start the new year and a new Legislative session with prayer. Like we saw last year, Oklahomans from all backgrounds and traditions can pray together for elected leaders, pray for our communities, and pray for wisdom in the challenges we face."
The governor has said he hoped to have the prayer event each year on the Tuesday after President's Day.
Harder said the event's timing just as the state legislators will be beginning a new session is key because the goal is to bring Oklahomans together in a non-political setting to focus on prayer for the state's leaders and Oklahoma's future.
"We are living in a time when every day there seems to be new ways we divide ourselves. In this environment, we look to what can cross these barriers and divisions. Prayer is one of those things," he said.
"Not everyone does pray, but anyone can pray. Praying together and desiring good for one another unites us in a way that few things can."
Last year, an estimated 1,200 people filled the National Cowboy Hall and Western Heritage Museum and the event was simulcast around the state in cities like Enid, Claremore, Tulsa, Edmond, Altus and McLoud so that other Oklahomans of faith could join in the effort.
Stitt was criticized for his involvement in a subsequent Christian-themed televised prayer service because it excluded other faith traditions. However, there were a few Jewish and Muslim Oklahomans in the mostly Christian breakfast crowd. And a video titled "When I Pray" that was shown to begin the event included people from the Christian, Judaism and Muslim faiths proclaiming the importance of prayer in their lives.
Admiral Barry C. Black, 62nd chaplain to the U.S. Senate, served as keynote speaker of the 2020 prayer effort, while several Oklahoma faith leaders led guests in prayer. Also, the Stitts unveiled a new state initiative called "Be A Neighbor." The initiative's website, BeANeighbor.org, encouraged Oklahoma faith-based groups, nonprofits and community organizations to help aid youths aging out of foster care, reducing high school drop-out rates and reduce recidivism.
Meanwhile, table hosts will be encouraged to pay per table of 10. According to registration details on the event website, the cost per table $1,500.
Harder said this year's breakfast, like last year's, is not connected to the governor's campaign or any political campaign. He said funds that come in to Oklahoma Capitol Culture or are expended by the organization can't be used for political activity or lobbying of any kind. Harder said funds from registration and other donations help pay event expenses and the development of resources associated with it.
Keeping eye on coronavirus crisis
As planning for the breakfast continues, Harder said his organization has made changes to reflect the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.
He said his group has reduced the number of tables available at the main breakfast site in order to accommodate for social distancing. He said they will make more tables available as the event date gets closer, if conditions allow.
Harder said they are also prepared for the possibility that the public health crisis prevents the planned in-person activities from taking place in February.
"We believe so strongly in the power of prayer and how the Governor's Prayer Breakfast has focused on uniting the state to pray -- we will move forward in that effort on Feb. 16. -- but adjust to a fully virtual event on that date if needed, with the full event held at a later date," he said.
Oklahoma Governor's Prayer Breakfast
When: Feb. 16, 2021.
Where: National Cowboy Hall and Western Heritage Museum, 1700 NE 63.
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