On city hall steps, at church-sponsored prayer breakfasts and lunches--and in a nationally televised program emanating from Van Nuys' Church on the Way--millions of Americans on Thursday observe the 46th annual National Day of Prayer.
Established in 1952, the day was designated in recent years as the first Thursday in May by Congress and proclaimed each year by the White House.
In its nationwide expression, the ceremonies take on an evangelical Christian focus--largely due to the extensive organization led by the Colorado Springs-based National Day of Prayer Task Force chaired by ex-Southern Californian Shirley Dobson, wife of broadcaster James Dobson, whose Focus on the Family ministries were in Pomona for years.
"Our nation is in desperate need of a spiritual renewal as crime, drug usage, child abuse and family breakups continue to plague us," Shirley Dobson said. "There is no other answer for these staggering social ills than to appeal for the mercy and grace of God."
The Dobsons appear Thursday with U.S. Senate Chaplain Lloyd Ogilvie, a former Hollywood pastor, in a live feed from Washington during a three-hour program to be televised by the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
The program starts at 5 p.m. and is based at the church's East Campus in Van Nuys. It will be broadcast live by radio stations KKLA-FM (99.5) and KFSG-FM (96.3).
Tickets to attend the program at the East Campus, 14300 Sherman Way, must be requested in advance at (818) 779-8000. For latecomers and parents with children, the program also will be shown on the large screen at Church on the Way's West Campus, 14800 Sherman Way.
The program includes appearances by Bishop Charles Blake of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, Christian recording star Twila Paris, musician-pastor Andrae Crouch of Pacoima and author-broadcaster Joni Eareckson Tada, who heads an international ministry to the disabled.
Among other National Day of Prayer ceremonies Thursday in Southern California:
* Writer-attorney Hugh Hewitt, co-host of KCET-TV Channel 28's "Life & Times," speaks at a prayer breakfast at 6:45 a.m. at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, 600 St. Andrews Road, Newport Beach. (714) 631-2880.
* Eight religious and civic leaders lead prayers at an informal breakfast in front of Santa Monica City Hall, 1685 Main St., at 7 a.m. (310) 829-4976.
* A service of prayer and fasting from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the chapel of Encino Presbyterian Church, 4963 Balboa Blvd. (818) 788-1147.
* John Dawson of Lake View Terrace, an international director of Youth With a Mission, will speak at a regional prayer service in Cornerstone Community Church, 1305 N. Euclid Ave., Ontario, at 6:30 p.m. (909) 987-3537.
Commissioner David Edwards, a Guyana-born officer at the Salvation Army's London headquarters, has been appointed as the U.S. western states territorial commander for the evangelical denomination best known for its vast humanitarian programs.
Currently international secretary for the Americas, Edwards will succeed retiring Commander Peter H. Chang at the Rancho Palos Verdes territorial offices July 1.
Edwards' wife, Doreen, a native of Barbados who also holds the rank of commissioner, was simultaneously appointed territorial president of women's organizations. Before his London post in 1995, David Edwards commanded a divisional post in New Jersey and a territorial one in the Caribbean.
Leaders of the large Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple in Hacienda Heights begin classes at Hsi Lai University this summer on a campus in Rosemead that was recently acquired from the evangelical Narramore Christian Foundation.
The Buddhist university was founded seven years ago at the temple by the Venerable Hsing Yung, but a spokesman said that the school was not able to function properly until a regular campus was established. University administrators eventually expect to offer a bachelor's degree in Buddhist studies and master's degrees in religious studies and business administration, but this summer's classes will be limited to Chinese language courses.
An open house with gifts, food and entertainment will be held next Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the university site at 1409 N. Walnut Grove Ave., which is nearly equidistant between the Pomona and San Bernardino freeways. (818) 571-8811.
The Washington-based Congress of National Black Churches has deposited a $100,000 certificate of deposit with Broadway Federal Savings Bank in Los Angeles as part of a campaign by major African American denominations to support economic development in black urban areas. The presentation was made this month by the Rev. W.T. Snead of Los Angeles, president of the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, and Los Angeles Bishop E. Lynn Brown of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. "We are praying that the African American community will not only match this deposit but far exceed it," Brown said.