Ribbons encourage Dorchester residents to 'Pause and Pray'

By Debra R. Messick, Dorchester Banner
Posted 4/30/24

This year’s U.S. National Day of Prayer falls on Thursday, May 2. President Harry Truman started the observance on July 4, 1952, and President Ronald Reagan moved it to the first Thursday in …

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Ribbons encourage Dorchester residents to 'Pause and Pray'


This year’s U.S. National Day of Prayer falls on Thursday, May 2. President Harry Truman started the observance on July 4, 1952, and President Ronald Reagan moved it to the first Thursday in May.

But at historic downtown Christ Church, community members are invited to “Pause and Pray” any day they feel called to do so, by choosing a symbolically colored ribbon to tie atop the iron graveyard fence.

Rev. Susan Steele Leight witnessed a similar observance last August while in Charleston, South Carolina, and in September set out a bowl of ribbons at the fence.

“It reminds me of how some churches have candles in their sanctuary that people can light; the ribbons allow us to bring the light out into the community,” Leight said.

For about eight weeks, from September through November, 278 ribbons were tied to the fence, “by persons known and unknown to us,” she said.

“Each color represented something specific: pink ribbons for teachers, students and schools. Purple ribbons for persons in recovery from addiction. Green ribbons for those who labor in the service of others. Orange ribbons for victims of gun violence and their families, blue ribbons for people in the courthouse. Yellow ribbons for persons seeking shelter, and cream-colored and bright green ribbons for personal prayer,” Leight said.

“Every week I would check on the ribbons, adding more to the reserve when necessary. Sometimes people would talk with me when they saw me at the fence, telling me about who they were praying for, and where they were from. Sometimes, I’d be on my way out to check on things and I would see someone praying at the fence, and I would quietly back away to give them their space. I have to say that I could feel the ground change in these moments. All of a sudden, these moments at the fence felt holy, and through them, I could feel the power of something that is far beyond us, and yet is so very near to us all the same,” she said.

“When it was time to take the ribbons down, because they represented people’s prayers, I didn’t want to just clip them off and discard them. So, on a clear and sunny day, I took about an hour and carefully untied them. This act itself was a prayer. Some of the ribbons were tied on loosely, almost like the person offering the prayer didn’t want to be spotted at the fence. Some ribbons were doubled up with another: two blue ones for people in the courthouse, and two purple ones tied together for people in recovery,” Leight said.

“Some were off all by themselves, in a place where there weren’t any other ribbons. Some ribbons were tied on so tight that I had to work especially hard to get them off, which led me to wonder if the person who tied the ribbon to the fence was praying for dear life,” she said.

After being removed from the outdoor fence, the ribbons remained in Leight’s office, in full view.  She continued praying for those who had offered up prayers and for those that were prayed for.

The spring “Pause and Pray” ribbons will remain outside the church through May, with the ribbons refilled weekly, Leight said.

Christ Church Cambridge, Great Choptank Parish, is located at 601 Church Street, across from Dorchester County Circuit Courthouse on High Street.

For more information, call 410-228-3161.

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