Canton Repository

February 4, 2005

Area pastor prays with thousands at National Prayer Breakfast in D.C.

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — Attending the National Prayer Breakfast for the first time Thursday reminded the Rev. Michael Bragg of Perry Township that he and his congregation are not alone.

“When we’re in our communities, sometimes we feel like such an island amid a large sea,” said Bragg, pastor of Grace Community Church in Massillon.

“But when you go to an event like this, you see just how many people are really focused on the spiritual and moral well-being of our country and community, and how interested people are in spreading this throughout our world.”

President Bush spoke at the 53rd annual event, which drew dozens of political figures, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Bragg and his wife, Jeanann, sat with Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, Rep. Stephanie Herseth, D-S.D., Bulgarian Ambassador Elena Poptodorova, a pastor from South Dakota and a physician and his wife from Florida.

They were among more than 3,000 people from across the nation and a number of foreign countries who attended. Regula helped Bragg get into the invitation-only event.

Bush, speaking for nine minutes, praised faith-based institutions and the contributions to the tsunami relief effort from nongovernment organizations.

“Today, millions of people across this Earth get the help they need only because our faith-based institutions live the commitment to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself,’ ” he said. “Often, that means remembering the people forgotten or overlooked in a busy world — those in Africa suffering from HIV/AIDS, young girls caught up in the global sex trade, victims of religious persecution.”

Bush was passionate about his faith, Bragg said.

“In his speech he was just extremely grateful for, specifically, the prayers of people praying for him, his Cabinet and of course our government,” he explained.

Bragg, pastor of Grace Community Church since its founding in 1988, met others who attended from the Midwest, as well as a presidential candidate from Haiti, at a regional gathering Wednesday.

“I was extremely impressed at how much unity there was and at the same time how much diversity,” he said. “It was just a real heartfelt experience for me.”