Church’s Vigil ‘A Way To Grow’

Asbury Methodist Members Pray Around-The-Clock

Posted: February 18, 2013

Retired Asbury United Methodist Church pastor Jerry John leads a song during the ceremonial launch of the church’s first 24-hour prayer vigil on Saturday. Portions of the vigil at the downtown Harrisonburg church, which lasted until noon Sunday, were broadcast live by radio station WSVA. (Photo by Jason Lenhart)
HARRISONBURG — Next to a wooden cross draped with purple and off-white cloth and surrounded by stained-glass depictions of Jesus, a woman knelt at the altar in Asbury Methodist Church shortly after noon Saturday.
She was the first of many to pray in that sanctuary throughout the following 24 hours.  
“Oh Lord, come to us in these moments and hours and this day of stillness and quiet,” Kathleen Overby Webster, the senior pastor of the downtown Harrisonburg church, prayed aloud minutes before. “Let us feel the sustaining presence of your spirit with us.”
Asbury held its first 24-hour prayer vigil that coordinator and retired pastor Jerry John can remember from noon Saturday through noon Sunday.
At least one church member was signed up to be at the church praying for every one of those hours, others prayed from home and one person who flew to Nicaragua last week prayed from there, he said.
John pastored the congregation in the 1970s, then led a few other churches before settling back at Asbury after retirement in 1995. Although this was his first prayer vigil at Asbury, he’s led several others at various churches.
“It accomplishes a number of things,” he said. “For the individual, it’s a way to grow spiritually. …  For the church, it’s an opportunity for us …  to find a vision that God may have that’s new for us.”
Although the church planned the vigil around the beginning of Lent, it was meant to help discover potential new paths for Asbury.
“We’ve been doing some …  looking at ourselves and trying to grow as a church spiritually and trying to find the vision that God has for us,” John said.
Although Webster also has participated in a number of prayer vigils at other churches, this one was distinctly different from the rest: a connection to the outside community, complete with an eight-hour, in-house live radio broadcast and prayer requests accepted over the radio.
That just came naturally to John, who used to work in the radio industry.
People in the sanctuary, only a few rooms from where the broadcast took place, prayed for those requests. 
Although there were only a handful of people in the church when the vigil started, John hoped to reach countless others via sending his words and prayers through the airwaves. 
The broadcast, aired on WSVA, lasted from 10 p.m. Saturday through 6 a.m. Sunday.
“That time of night, the radio waves carry a phenomenal distance,” John said before the vigil. “We expect to cover most of Virginia from about midnight on.”
Asbury member Charlie Raisner, a Bridgewater resident, said he was praying for a number of things during the vigil — namely, family and friends.
Celia Mitchell of Harrisonburg and a longtime member of Asbury, said she was praying “for peoples’ hearts to be touched by the Lord.”
“If it even touches one, it’s worth it,” she said.
Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or

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