Plans are underway for the 26th Marco Annual Prayer Breakfast, March 12, at Marriott’s Marco Island Resort and Spa.
The first Prayer Breakfast was held in 1983. Carol Matthews-Gore was inspired by a prayer breakfast she attended in Kokomo, Indiana. The Kokomo event was organized by Dr. John Thompson.
When she moved to Marco, Matthews-Gore longed for the sense of community that the Kokomo prayer breakfast evoked. She worked with Thompson and other community leaders to organize the event. Thompson was the first speaker.
“The event has been truly blessed and has fulfilled its mission to keep a sense of community,” said Matthews-Gore.
“When we started we didn’t know how long it would go. Last year at the 25th Marco Annual Prayer breakfast, Thompson attended and gave some brief, yet powerful remarks, continued Matthews-Gore.
Prayer breakfasts such as the one in Kokomo and the one on Marco are modeled after the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. The national event started as a series of dinners, lunches, and breakfasts, where business, political and social leaders could meet and build relationships. The event was originally called the Presidential Breakfast but was changed to the National Prayer Breakfast in 1970.
The national breakfast has been hosted at the Washington, D.C. Hilton. The Marco breakfast has always been at the Marco Marriott. The national breakfast has 3,500 attendees. The first prayer breakfast on Marco had 150 attendees and ranges from 450 to 600 attendees. The national breakfast is hosted by congress. A committee of retired businessmen and women with prayerful concern for the total welfare of the Marco Island community hosts the Marco breakfast: Don and Lynn Kolowsky, Rod and Jeanne Bucklin, Norm and Karen Blake, Paul and Charlotte Burke, Blaine and Ginny Fluth, Bob Olson, and Laura Sonntag. Don Kolowsky is chairman, Laura Sonntag is secretary, and Blaine Fluth is treasurer and oversees the ticket sales.
The stated purpose of the Marco Island Community Prayer Breakfast is: “To bring the Marco Island community together in an acknowledgement of the need of Almighty God’s blessings in the affairs of our community and recognition of His values as the foundation of our Nation’s History.”
Kolowsky, has been actively involved with the prayer breakfast for 12 years. He was chairman for six of those years.
“We are encouraged by our active committee that has stepped up to take different roles in preparation for the breakfast. We hope to have between 400 to 500 people. We have a great speaker lined up, a wide array of participating clergy and community leaders,” said Kolowsky.
Barb Freeman is looking forward to her ninth Prayer Breakfast.
“Every year I wonder if it is worth the effort to get up early but each year I come away truly blessed. When I look around at the people I realize that we are all one under God. The food, although delicious, is incidental to the connection I feel with the other people there,” said Freeman.
“The Prayer Breakfast is breakfast for our soul. It is the eat, pray, and love of Marco Island,” continued Freeman.
Each year the format consists of a guest speaker, color guards from either the VFW, Civil Air Patrol Cadets or Lely High School ROTC. Local talent has provided music: the Community Choir, Island Praise Band, and many others. Attendees have a time to get acquainted at the tables during a musical prelude. This is followed by the presentation of the colors, pledge of allegiance, audience singing of patriotic music, opening prayer, recognition of dignitaries, serving of breakfast, recitation of the litany of peace by two leaders with audience participation, prayer for the community leaders, the keynote speaker, and a presentation of special music. This year the Island Praise Band will perform.
The breakfast ends in prayer and the singing of “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” Breakfast consists of fresh assorted breads and muffins, fresh squeezed orange juice, seasonal fruit, scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes, bacon, coffee, and hot tea.
This year’s speaker is Dr. Douglas M. Johnston, president and founder of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy. The topic of his speech is “Enhancing Global Security Through Faith Based Diplomacy.” According to the center’s Web site: “The International Center for Religion & Diplomacy serves as a bridge between religion and politics in preventing and resolving conflicts in various parts of the world.” The Center’s mission is to: “ … address identity-based conflicts that exceed the reach of traditional diplomacy by incorporating religion as part of the solution.”
Johnston, a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy holds a masters degree in public administration and a Ph. D. in political science from Harvard University. He has served in senior positions in government, business, academia, and the military. He has served as deputy assistant secretary of the navy; director of policy planning and management in the Office of the Secretary of Defense; and planning officer with the President’s Office of Emergency Preparedness. He has taught courses in international affairs and security at Harvard and was the founder and director of the university’s executive program in national and international security. Johnston also served for 10 years in the submarine service and, at the age of 27, was the youngest officer in the navy to qualify for command of a nuclear submarine.
Prior to founding the Center, Johnston served as executive vice president and chief operations officer of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) where in addition to his other duties; he chaired the Center’s Preventive Diplomacy Program and directed the CSIS project on Religion and Conflict Resolution.
While at CSIS he was the co-editor and principal author of “Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft.” The book is now in its 14th printing and second foreign language translation. He also edited and was principal author of “Foreign policy into the 21st Century: the U.S. Leadership Challenge” and “Faith-based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik.”
The doors open at 7 a.m. The event starts at 7:30 and concludes at 9.
Tickets available only through advance purchase at the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce and most houses of worship: $200 for a reserved table of 10 or $20 for individual open seating.