Hundreds of residents in a small city in Ohio gathered for a night of prayer and repentance at what was dubbed a “sacred assembly” in response to the coronavirus lockdowns.
Community members from multiple denominations in Ashland, located about 60 miles southwest of Cleveland, attended the assembly that took place at Freer Field on Aug. 23 in which the mayor called for Jesus to reign Supreme over the town.
Twenty-five churches associated with the Ashland County Ministerial Association collaborated with local elected officials to put on the event, which featured speakers like Mayor Matt Miller, State Rep. Darrell Kick and County Commissioner Emmitt Justice.
In an interview with The Christian Post this week, Pastor Dave McNeely of Ashland’s New Life Community Church explained that the sacred assembly was a response to the novel coronavirus and the church closures that came from pandemic gathering restrictions.
“We really felt at the Ministerial Association that it was time to do something to bring the community together and Scripture teaches us that the best way to do that is to get people to pray together,” he said.
“It was a wonderful, prayerful evening for our community,” McNeely recalled. “We’re going to make it an annual event. We’re going to at least do it once a year.”
In addition to praying and asking for forgiveness, attendees of the assembly professed their love for Christ.
“As I stand before you tonight, in the bright light of His son, to the extent that I am able, I give this city of Ashland to the LORD Jesus Christ,” Miller proclaimed as he spoke at the event, according to Front Line Ohio.
The mayor expressed hope that the roughly 20,000 residents of the town would experience Christ’s love firsthand.
“May this be a land where He rules supreme,” Miller was quoted as saying. “May this be a land where His love is genuinely felt by believers and nonbelievers alike.”
During his remarks, Miller declared that “the heart of this city is seeking God.”
“I believe with all my heart that is why God has protected the city of Ashland during one of the most tumultuous times in my lifetime and the city’s history,” Miller stated.
According to The Times-Gazette, Pastor John Bouquet of Bethel Baptist Church in Savannah said that the Old Testament passage of Joel 1:13-14 calls for “repentance from our sins and consecration unto God.”
“Because He’s our healer. He’s the reconciler of all human relationships that go wrong. He’s the answer for every question that we have,” Bouquet was quoted as saying. “And faith is to replace fear. And that’s what this event is.”
McNeely said that Ashland had been spared from the worst of the coronavirus.
“Ashland County has been pretty blessed,” the pastor explained. “We’ve had very little impact from COVID. ... As of last week, there were no active cases.”
McNeely told CP that at his church, there was “a low impact on job loss” due to coronavirus.
“The church did not see too much of a drop off … in offerings. People were mailing in their offerings and doing electronic giving,” he added.
While McNeely and town leaders see the relatively small impact of COVID-19 as evidence that God’s hand is upon their community, the pastor argued that “we are seeing a lot of great God activity in our community.”
“We are having an opportunity where we have five school districts in Ashland County and all five school superintendents and school districts are asking for the Ministerial Association to assist them to get … an accredited Bible class back into all of the schools,” he said.
As of right now, Ohio has a law on the books that allows high school students to receive credit for Bible classes that take place outside of school.
LifeWise Academy, a ministry that teaches an accredited Bible class and curriculum, is part of a three-way partnership with the Ashland County Ministerial Association and the school district in Ashland County working to enable students to attend Bible classes during the school day.
“In a majority of those school districts, we have churches very close to the schools,” McNeely explained. “And almost all of those churches are willing to open up to allow students to … come over and to have their class and then to go back to school.”
McNeely hopes that the new initiative, which will likely start with the elementary schools first, will be in place at the beginning of the 2021-'22 school year.