SALT LAKE CITY — On a day when many gathered at cemeteries to pay tribute to lost loved ones or congregated around the television set to cheer on Indy race car drivers, people of different nations and different languages gathered together to celebrate their common unity in Christ.
Here, during this local Global Day of Prayer on Pentecost Sunday at the Calvary Baptist Church, it did not matter if one's place of birth was South Sudan, Pakistan, India, Mexico or Tonga — such geographic and ethnic barriers were shelved in favor of being in accord through the worship of God.
The event is organized locally by the Vine Institute with the help of 12 participating churches on the planning committee. In its third year here in the Salt Lake area, the Global Day of Prayer has grown to include representation by close to 20 varying cultural groups and several hundred people.
Tom McClenahan heads the Vine Institute, a multi-denominational center for theological instruction, promoting "God's Kingdom Without Borders."
McClenahan said the Global Day of Prayer was a natural fit for the center given that the international event held in 220 countries first started as a simple call for Christians to set aside differences and come together to pray.
It is McClenahan's hope that such events allow people to earnestly celebrate diversity and connect as Christians in an empowered way.
In Utah in particular, McClenahan said, the "look" of the body of Christ is changing with the influx of refugees from other countries and immigrants.
During Sunday's events, seven unique prayer sessions conducted in distinct languages and celebrations of ethnic customs were held.
Shadow Wolf of the Christ for the Nations Church was joined on stage by a choir clad in ornate, colorful dress singing in worship to Christ.
"It's only because of Jesus we are together as one body," he said.
Wolf urged everyone in the church to lift up their voice as one and celebrate so God could hear. Afterward, he offered a prayer in Arabic.
Between each of the sessions, the worship area of the church filled up with the murmurs of many languages as everyone was urged to pray in their home language, in their own way.
Pastor Ernest Khokhar from Pakistan and the Miracle Rock Church urged people to stand, to get to their feet to proclaim affinity with God.
"We came here to shake the walls down," he bellowed to the crowd.
Earlier in the evening, Susan Smith from South Sudan said she was anxious to participate in the event because of how worship and prayer help her to feel.
"I like to be present with the Lord, and it is a very blessed day," she said. Outside, in the crush of crowds and hectic pace, things can become alarming, somewhat frightful, she said. "When you are in the presence of the Lord, you're always happy."