Wesleyan group offers prayers on town green

BRANDON — In today’s more secular society, driving through a picturesque small Vermont town and seeing a large, red banner that says simply “Prayer” in the local park might give one pause. They might think some out-of-towners were exercising their freedom of religion, but choose to steer clear. But they would be wrong.
“We’re there to reach out to the community for prayer with people,” said Richard Brosse, a member of the Forest Dale Wesleyan Church in Brandon. “No pressure, just friendly ministry.”
Brosse said that the idea for the “Prayer Stand,” as congregation members call it, in Brandon’s Central Park germinated in the church’s adult Christian education group that meets every Sunday morning.
“In our small group, we wanted to do outreach for the community,” Brosse explained. “I saw the idea in a magazine and thought it would be a good, unique way to do that.”
Armed with the large, red “Prayer” banner, a few folding camp chairs and free Bibles, Brosse and Wesleyan Church Pastor John McDonald set up the first Prayer Stand on a Saturday in June. Weather permitting, two members of the Forest Dale Wesleyan congregation are there in Central Park each Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Wesleyan Church is a Protestant, evangelical sect of Christianity developed by John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement. It is a Bible-centric religion focused on outreach and spiritual growth. Like many religions, it is local church-centered, but also finds unity in diversity of race, personalities, cultures and perspectives. During the abolitionist period prior to the U.S. Civil War, the Wesleyan Church was staunchly against slavery.
Brosse said that roughly 40 people have visited the prayer stand since it first appeared. Some live in Brandon, others are just passing through, and they all visit for different reasons.
“Some people ask if we will pray with them,” Brosse explained. “Some have religious questions and we try to answer them. We accept Jesus Christ as our lord and savior and welcome anyone who wants to talk with us.”
Brosse said that all manner of folks have stopped by. Some aren’t seeking prayer as much as a place to sit and rest a minute, others merely ask for directions.
“Some people are from out of state and we’ll never see them again,” Brosse said. “Others come and ask what we’re selling. We give out Bibles. We don’t pressure anybody.”
He tells of a woman from Maryland who stopped by one afternoon.
“She said, ‘Oh, this is wonderful! Do you read auras?’” Brosse recounted with a laugh.
Brosse, a veteran of the Vietnam War era, served for several years as the chaplain at the Brandon post of the American Legion. He said the church’s goal of community outreach is being met without any high-pressure tactics.
“We thought about knocking on doors, but that’s too ‘in your face,’” he explained. “It just doesn’t work. If people want to come and see us, they can. We’re not trying to shove anything down anyone’s throat. We’re just trying to be a blessing for the community.”
Weather permitting, the Forest Dale Wesleyan Church will operate the Prayer Stand in Brandon’s Central Park each Saturday through early fall.

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