While the weight of grief continues to be present, Thomas and Jodie Barrett have chosen to concentrate on the joy in life rather than sadness.
For the third year, along with a host of volunteers, they will stage the Community Prayer Tree beside their home at 787 Rivers Edge Parkway in Roanoke Rapids.
This event, and the Prayer Tree, is in memory of Ryan Barrett, George Cesil, and James “Bo” Ussery.
Ryan, the Barrett’s son, and Cesil and Ussery were linemen working in the Florida Panhandle to restore power in the aftermath of 2018’s Hurricane Michael when they were struck by a drunken driver. The man responsible was sentenced to four life sentences in January.
The community is invited to join the family in praying.
Placed beside this year’s 12-foot tree, a mailbox will hold tags, protective sleeves, and pens, allowing visitors to write a prayer request and place it on the tree.
Benches are present so that those stopping by may sit for a while and pray for their request and the others that have been placed on the tree.
“In the last year we found healing, peace, joy, laughter, tears, and love at the foot of the tree. It was beautiful to have our community circle around the tree every Monday night from the beginning of December to the end,” said Jodie. “Again we want to offer prayer, sing songs of worship, and support one another as we fellowship and gather safely beneath the tree.”
This year will be somewhat different due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Strict social distancing will be practiced as well as the presence of hand sanitizer at the welcome station.
Masks are encouraged to be worn but will not be required.
Instead of using the same pens over and over to sign the prayer tags, individuals will be given a new pen and be able to take the pen with them.
It is the hope of the Barrett family that this pen will be a reminder throughout the holiday and into 2021 to “pray for all people.”
As in past years, if you are unable to visit the prayer tree, you may contact Jodie Barrett, Donna Fender, or Kimberly Graybeal to express your prayer request and a tag will be placed upon the tree for you.
Tammy Jean of Creative Designs and Gifts, located at 412 Becker Drive in Roanoke Rapids, will be joining the Barrett family again this year by displaying a prayer tree and a mailbox holding prayer tags outside of her shop.
While there will not be a scheduled event at this location, people are encouraged to stop by and place a prayer on this tree also.
Last year, scores of people came to the Barrett’s home to decorate the Community Prayer Tree with prayer cards and watch as its lights were turned on.
Jodie anticipates the tree will be laden with cards again this year as each Monday through Christmas, different church groups will aid visitors by helping them with cards and praying with them from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
According to Graybeal, the prayer tree coordinator, each Monday evening will be diverse and unique because of the generosity of the community and its neighbors.
As a special conclusion on the evening of December 21, luminarias will be lit in memory of others, providing a peaceful atmosphere of joy and hope.
The Monday schedule is as follows:
November 30 — Members of First Christian Church will provide music, prayer, and scripture reading. Strickland Associates has donated COVID-friendly snacks for this night.
December 7 — Special music will be provided along with scripture reading and prayer. Moseley Electric will be providing individual snacks and drinks.
December 14 — Special music will be provided along with scripture reading and prayer. Mainspring Solutions will be providing individual snacks and drinks.
December 21 — Donna Fender and Faithfully Following Ministries along with Hope for Hardy will be present to lead the gathering in carols.