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Faith in Prayer Brings 400 Pastors Together : Churches: Religious leaders from South-Central to Malibu gather to unite their voices for a safer, more peaceful future. The session at a Korean congregation is one of a series.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The outpouring of emotion inside the Los Angeles church was so powerful Tuesday that some wept as they prayed aloud, embracing strangers and clasping their hands.

Crossing ethnic, gender, geographic and denominational lines, 400 Protestant pastors from South-Central to Malibu converged on Young-Nak Presbyterian Church, a Korean immigrant house of worship at the edge of Los Angeles’ Chinatown, to pray fervently for the Los Angeles area and its people.

For three hours, the pastors and a handful of lay people prayed--as a whole and in groups of threes and fours--for earthquake victims, for improved ethnic relations and for spiritual revival.

Some prayed with bodies shaking, their hands raised and faces looking heavenward. Others prayed quietly on their knees. Still others talked to God standing in a circle, their arms around their colleagues.

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“Prayer is the only activity where you pour out your energy and get more energy back,” said the Rev. Jack Hayford, pastor of the Church on the Way in Van Nuys, signaling an end to one segment.

The pastors were then invited to offer individual prayers for Los Angeles. A dozen lined up at two microphones near the pulpit.

An Asian American chaplain affiliated with UCLA prayed for students who are searching for God and the meaning of life.

An African American minister from South-Central prayed for children who have troubled parents.

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A white minister from Malibu, dressed in a denim outfit and a red turtleneck, asked God to “reclaim creative people” to enable them to produce work that stresses the positive rather than the negative.

The spiritual journey that brought together ministers from churches rich and poor, big and small, black and white, Latino and Asian, was a happening that many religious observers said would go down in the city’s history as a miracle. Collectively they represented more than 100,000 Christians from restrained Presbyterian and Methodist congregations to the more fervent Southern Baptists and evangelical Pentecostal churches.

“This gathering is a miracle,” said the Rev. Lloyd Ogilvie of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. “We do believe it’s contributing toward a rising spirit of revival in L.A.”

“This group can touch the world,” said the Rev. David Lawrence of the First Baptist Church of Thousand Oaks, attending his seventh such prayer meeting.

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Eight years ago, Ogilvie and Hayford started Shepherds Love L.A., a pastoral prayer group. What began as 10 ministers praying for the Los Angeles area thrice a year grew to 25 pastors, then more.

Last fall, organizers were drawn by “the spirit of God to branch out to different locations,” Ogilvie said. So they held a session at the Rev. Charles Blake’s West Angeles Church of God in Christ in the Crenshaw district. It was a smashing success.

Continuing the course, they chose an Asian church for Tuesday, the first anniversary of the Northridge quake and the day after the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Come May 2, Shepherds Love L.A. will gather at Temple Baptist Church in South-Central.

“God has a dream for his people in Los Angeles,” said the Rev. Hee-Min Park, senior pastor of Young-Nak. “I thank God that we have been given this precious opportunity to participate in God’s dream for Los Angeles by praying together--praying together for a city that might be decorated with peace, reconciliation and love.”

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Echoing the words of the late civil rights leader, Park said: “In a world where a handful of the ‘rich’ control way too much, thank God that people like Mother Teresa dream dreams to feed and heal the neglected--millions upon millions--of the poor. Do you have a dream?”

The audience responded with an resounding “Amen.”

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The Rev. Dallas Lewis, pastor of 1,500-member Love and Unity Church in Compton, beamed as he sat in a pew toward the back of the cavernous sanctuary.

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“What a blessing it is to have ministers from all over Los Angeles come together. It’s a vision for the city,” he said.

The pastors’ focus is praying, but after the 1992 riots and last year’s earthquake, Shepherds Love L.A.'s executive committee helped victims by sharing resources.

The group is seeking to expand the fellowship to other faiths, including the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. As Tuesday’s prayer meeting drew to a close exactly three hours after it had begun with an early morning breakfast at the church, Ogilvie led the pastors in the singing of a hymn, “He Is Lord,” and sharing their blessings by the “laying of hands” on one another.

All 400 moved slowly toward the pulpit and knelt on the floor in prayer, their hand on the person next to them.

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Then, stillness fell in the sanctuary--even as a bright sun through the windows cast a glow on the multitude.


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