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Prayer Garden offers opportunity to get away (June 8, 2004)

Prayer Garden offers opportunity to get away (June 8, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Prayer Garden offers opportunity to get away

June 8, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0090}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**
DAYTONA BEACH — Patricia West said she looks forward to annual conference every year, but she especially looks forward to a special area set aside as the Prayer Garden.

DAYTONA BEACH — Candles flicker on the altar inside the Prayer Garden in the Performing Arts Center at Bethune Cookman-College (BCC) here. Organizers say many people returned to the tranquil setting to center themselves throughout the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event, held June 3-6 at BCC. Photo by J.A. Buchholz, Photo #04-0027, accompanies e-Review Florida UMNS #0090.

It is there that the sounds of a babbling creek and twinkling lights greeted visitors inside the Performing Arts Center on the campus of Bethune Cookman-College, the site of the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event June 3-6. The theme was "A Light to the Nations."
West, a member of Paradise United Methodist Church in Alachua, said it’s easy for clergy and laity to get lost in amendments, debates and proposals at annual conference, but the Prayer Garden offers “a space of serenity where clarity can overcome confusion and restore clam to the soul.”
“It’s a place of focus and peace,” West said. “For me it is about inspiration and renewal. I try to come every day.”
What drew West and others back each day was the garden’s Forgiveness, Hope and Intercessory prayer chapels. Each had its own unique appeal and was decorated with original, spiritual artwork—candles, pillows on which to sit and pray, a prayer altar.
Ann-Lee Earnshaw, director of spiritual formation at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando, created and designed the Prayer Garden’s theme, along with members of the Sacred Spaces Team at the church. She said it was fashioned so that visitors could have an encounter with God.
“People have been really moved by it,” Earnshaw said. “It’s very peaceful and it gives people a sense of wholeness.”
The Prayer Garden also had a prayer tree where visitors were encouraged to write their prayer for the world on a strip of fabric and tie it to a branch; a glass mobile in front of a picture window to remind people to reflect the light of Christ in the world; and the Christ Center, with candles to remind visitors of their shared life in Christ.

Lucy Wray, a member of the Spiritual Formation Team and Palm Harbor United Methodist Church in Palm Harbor, said the Prayer Garden’s elements made it a distinctive experience for visitors. She said it gave visitors an opportunity to reconnect with their spirituality.
“When people are here we hope the Prayer Garden helps them put things in perspective and remember whose they are and the reason they’re here,” she said. “It’s a little oasis for them to slip away and have some solitude and silence.”
Ada Rodriguez, a member of Tamiami United Methodist Church in Miami, said for her the Prayer Garden was a place to refuel her soul.
“It’s beautiful here and very peaceful,” she said. “I was here yesterday, as well. I like to take a few minutes and come here.”
West shared that enthusiasm and returned on a daily basis.
“It’s like a touchstone for me,” she said. “It’s like you’re running and running with so much to see and do here, and then you stop and take a few minutes for a drink of water by coming here, and then you’re fresh and ready to get back in the run.”

To view daily photos of the event’s activities and business visit


This article relates to the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.