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Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Interfaith Alliance hosts virtual interfaith prayer service

BY CARLA HINTON, PUBLISHED IN THE OKLAHOMAN - Thirteen metro area spiritual leaders participated in a virtual interfaith prayer service on Monday to offer prayers for the state amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Hosted by the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, the prayer event was held via Facebook Live.

Rabbi Abby Jacobson, rabbi of Emanuel Synagogue and president of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, served as facilitator.

The event was, in part, a response to a March 26 televised Christian prayer event which included Gov. Kevin Stitt and his wife, First Lady Sarah Stitt, as participants.

In a news release, the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City said Stitt's office should have done more to make sure the prayer event represented many faith traditions, not just one. The Interfaith Alliance, in its own news release, described the event as an "exclusionary faith activity" that ran contrary to the governor's message at his prayer breakfast in February which was inclusive of Jewish, Muslim and Native American faith leaders, along with a diverse representation of Christian denominations.

Monday, Jacobson said she hoped the interfaith event served as a model of inclusion.

"In simplest terms, we heard from our governor 'Pray for Oklahoma. Pray for the end of this virus.' I thought as an interfaith community, we should come together and do just that," she said, after the online gathering.

"I know that it is very, very difficult to navigate that idea of prayer outside of your own home or outside of your own faith or worship because it always excludes people, it always makes someone uncomfortable. But I think when we are feeling so isolated and we are forced to use virtual means to try to connect with people, the idea of asking people to come together to pray is a challenge we were able to meet.

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