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World Day of Prayer a Sewickley tradition for 90 years

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Ann Strong, left, and Barbara Frey sit inside Sewickley Presbyterian Church on Feb. 4. The women are part of a group helping to organize the annual World Day of Prayer service March 1.

Women — and some men — from various faiths across Sewickley will join together March 1 to pray as one as they celebrate World Day of Prayer.

It’s a tradition that’s been ongoing in the area for 90 years.

“It’s as it should be,” said Ann Strong, World Day of Prayer organizing committee member at Sewickley Presbyterian Church. “We all worship the same Lord. We read the scriptures. There really is more in common than there is different. It’s just a nice time to recognize that.”

World Day of Prayer is a worldwide ecumenical movement of Christian women of varying backgrounds who come together to observe a common day of prayer each year on the first Friday in March.

Churches across the Sewickley area take turns hosting the event every year. There are nine churches that participate in the rotation, Strong said. The first World Day of Prayer in the community was held at Sewickley Presbyterian Church 90 years ago. That’s where this year’s service will take place.

A group from Church Women United began celebrating the day in 1929.

Barbara Frey, 84, of Aleppo, a representative from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, has been partaking since the 1970s.

Back then, the women held three different celebrations each year, she said.

In March, they hosted World Day of Prayer. In May, it was Fellowship Day. And, in November, they celebrated World Community Day.

“It was a very active group,” she said.

The women held several Bible studies each year during Lent and entertained a group of residents from the former Dixmont State Hospital for a day of cake and punch after they went to the Sewickley Valley YMCA for a swim.

Over the years, attendance began to drop.

“I guess that was back when women all went back to work,” Frey said.

While the other events went by the wayside, the group was determined to keep World Day of Prayer going in Sewickley, she said.

“I have just been so thankful that we’ve been able to do this every year,” Frey said.

It takes more than a dozen women to organize the day locally.

As part of World Day of Prayer, a committee is selected from a country to serve as the writers for the worship service each year. This year, it’s Slovenia.

The theme is “Come — Everything is Ready.”

There will be readings prepared by Slovenian women about their lives, Strong said.

The Rev. Jean Henderson, retired from Sewickley Presbyterian Church, will give the homily.

Every five years, the group holds a lunch following the service, Frey said. A tea is held otherwise. This year, there will be a luncheon featuring Slovenian foods.

On average, 50 to 60 people attend, including men.

“I feel blessed that we can all get together and participate in this worship service,” Strong said.

While 90 years is an accomplishment, Frey hopes the women of Sewickley will carry on the tradition for at least another 10 years to get to 100 years of worshiping together.

“It would be neat if they can do 100,” she said.

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.