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Church supports police with prayer card ministry


Police Officer Jerald McKeen reads a note of appreciation from a member of the prayer card ministry at First United Methodist Church in Peoria, Ill.
UMNS photos by Reed Galin.

A UMNS Report
By Lilla Marigza*

June 5, 2008

From her kitchen table in Peoria, Ill., Cathie Wilton writes a personal note on a purple card.

In an age when handwritten correspondence is usually reserved for close family, friends and special occasions, Wilton is writing someone she doesn't even know––a police officer in her community.

 
Organizer Cathie Wilton writes a thank you card for a member of the city's police force. 

 

"I can’t imagine what facing danger must feel like but I know the Lord is with you through it all," Wilton writes.

The note is one of thousands written over the last seven years by members of Peoria First United Methodist Church as part of their police prayer card ministry.

Each day, individual church members pray for two to three officers randomly assigned to them from a roster supplied by the police department. The prayers are followed up with a personal note.

Some of the notes are short and simple, while others share personal stories and may even spark a pen pal relationship. One officer told Wilton she especially enjoyed the letters she received from a woman who loved to write about her personal joys and travels. "She said, 'it was like conversing by letter with my grandmother. I really, really enjoyed that.'"

In the mailroom of the Peoria police station, Officer Jerald McKeen pulls a letter from his box and tears it open. It reads: "Dear Jerald, I just wanted to thank you for keeping our city safe." McKeen says he is comforted to know that the people he serves care. "We appreciate it. I am a firm believer in the power of prayer," he says.

Capt. Mike Scally has received countless letters from the prayer team over the last seven years. He looks forward to the notes now, but initially was wary. "When I first got a card, I looked at it. There was somebody’s name I didn’t recognize and I am saying, 'Why is this person writing me a letter?' I opened it and looked at it and it was kind of a nice, refreshing moment."

Prayer team members say some officers write back. They also know that other officers don't even open the letters.

Scally likes that his work is acknowledged. "The job we do is actually being recognized by the people we work for, and to know that they appreciate what we do gives me a good feeling of satisfaction."

The ministry started in 2001 with just six team members praying for a dozen officers. Today, 135 church members and friends pray for 147 Peoria policemen and women.

 
Noel Cline gets a lot of satisfaction out of doing something nice for those
who protect and serve.

 

Wilton, the organizer, handles the schedule. "Our team members are very loyal," she says. "They’ve gotten to the point in the last seven years that they consider these police officers part of their families."

Wilton says the ministry is surprisingly simple. Anyone can pray for someone in private, and anyone can write a letter. It has been a favorite ministry for church members who are not always able to be active in ministry. "We can get seniors involved. We can get homebound people involved. We can get young people involved. We have a teenager on our team now," she says.

Noel Cline says writing her letters takes just a few minutes a month, and she gets a lot of satisfaction out of doing something nice for those who protect and serve. "Our mission statement at First United Methodist Church is to try to bring Christ to people in the community. I feel this is one way we are doing that," she says.

Across town, Wilton is busy writing another card.

"You may not always feel his presence but he is always with you," she writes. "And I will be with you and your family in daily prayer. Please know that you are never alone. Sincerely, Cathie Wilton."

*Marigza is a freelance producer in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Marta Aldrich, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Video Story

Police Appreciation Cards

Related Article

Peoria gathers for 40 days of prayer against crime

Resources

Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference

First United Methodist Church of Peoria


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