By Katherine Yeager | Echo
There is a Taylor legacy of prayer, spanning the decades through prayer groups. From on campus gatherings such as the Tuesday women's prayer group at the Muselman House, persecuted church prayer group at the Memorial Prayer Chapel, Thursday night Encounter and "Operation World" prayer group to the Tuesday and Thursday morning Prayer Room at The Bridge Cafe, the university and surrounding community is steeped in generations of prayer.
According to former University Registrar and long-time Upland community member Barb Davenport, a women's prayer group has been hosted by Taylor's First Lady on and off for many years, even before Davenport's arrival in 1958.
Davenport and her family moved from Southern California to Upland in 1958 where she went on to become the Registrar, later holding a position in the Academic Enrichment Center.
Davenport recalls Bonnie Odle, wife of former Men's Basketball Coach Don Odle, inviting her to a women's prayer group led by the wife of President Emeritus Evan Bergwall.
Mrs. Bergwall requested a prayer group for women around 1955-1956. The group became prayer advocates for the whole campus, with wives of athletic coaches, professors and others from a variety of disciplines praying faithfully together in the midst of hard years.
Davenport found the group to be a source of strength that guided her through the early years of her faith.While she recovered from an accident, the prayer group stepped in and helped watch her two children.
"If anything drew me to that group," Davenport said, "it was their love."
Today, a similar prayer group meets at the president's home, re-instituted three years ago by former First Lady Marylou Habecker. According to Davenport, Habecker desired a women's prayer group so she continued the Thursday prayer group tradition. As the group developed, Habecker transferred the group's leadership to Susie Heth, wife of Biblical Studies Professor, Bill Heth. Recently, First Lady Sherry Haines attended the group for the first time.
This Tuesday, 12 people, including Davenport, Haines, Heth and several students and faculty members from across campus, gathered with smiles and laughter in the Muselman House living room.
In addition to the Tuesday women's prayer group, Davenport and Heth also attend a different prayer group beforehand at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays at the Memorial Prayer Chapel. The group is open to all who pray for the persecuted church worldwide.
On average, five people attend the Tuesday 10 a.m. group. One student, sophomore Rachael Rohwer, recently joined the group.
"It is a time of asking the Lord what His heart is for certain parts of the world and partnering with Him in having compassion and mercy for these people," Rohwer said. "Whatever is burning on one person's heart, the fire will spread to the rest of us. We all end up feeling more connected to what is being prayed for and...what the Lord is feeling and desiring."
During each meeting, the group spreads out maps and prays for the persecuted church around the world, gaining information from mission news and news outlets. Davenport feels that concentrating on one topic for prayer fosters like-mindedness.
Beyond Taylor's campus, prayer groups meet throughout Upland. Last year, The Bridge Cafe opened its doors on Tuesday and Thursday mornings to the community for Prayer Room, a time of worship, prayer and reflection led by Tyler Dresbach ('15) of Kingdom Life Church. The time for this year's Prayer Room is yet to be established.
Sophomore Kelly Sisson believes the time brings refreshment and encouragement at the start of each day.
"Ordinarily, someone would lead worship while others spent time journaling, praying or singing along," Sisson said. "Some mornings were dedicated to communal prayer or focused on praying for groups like the global persecuted church. I was blessed by that space and the Spirit's presence among that gathering of believers."
Taylor's legacy of prayer groups spans beyond present groups. Ed Meadors, professor of biblical studies, remembers various prayer groups over his years at Taylor.
"Throughout Taylor's history, faculty have devoted significant amounts of departmental meeting time to praying for students," Meadors said.
Every weekday, for three years, Meadors led a time of prayer for the nations of the world following the prayer guidelines of the book "Operation World" at the Memorial Prayer Chapel.
Meadors plans to restart the prayer group on Monday, Sept. 19, using the new abridged version of "Operation World" at 5 p.m. in the Memorial Prayer Chapel. The time will include prayer for the world as well as the Taylor community.
As classes and prayer groups pick up, Davenport encourages students to join together in prayer, to find commonality and to foster deeper community amongst believers.