In 1952, the U.S. Congress established a day to remember the religious heritage of this country and to celebrate the rights to freely exercise our faith, and yes, to pray to God. As a nation, we unite on the first Thursday in May for the National Day of Prayer.
In Madison County, religious beliefs also influenced our history.
During the 1820s, Christian religion influenced Edward Coles, the second governor of Illinois and resident of Edwardsville, to join forces with Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians to fight against an attempt to make Illinois a slave state. A classroom building at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is named after John Mason Peck, a Baptist circuit rider, who worked with Coles to keep Illinois “free soil.”
It was the Christian religion that inspired Presbyterian minister Elijah Lovejoy to publish a newspaper that opposed slavery. Three times pro-slavery mobs destroyed Lovejoy’s press in St. Louis. He then moved his press to Alton, where, in 1837, pro-slavery mobs attacked a warehouse where he kept it. Lovejoy was shot and killed defending the press.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Paul Simon, who lived in Highland and Troy, and was the son of a Lutheran pastor and missionary, exposed corruption in Madison County. Simon worked tirelessly to reform local government.
In Alton, Granite City and Highland, Roman Catholics founded and operated hospitals and orphanages. Various churches support food pantries and crisis pregnancy centers throughout the county too.
The National Day of Prayer is a fitting time to remember God’s blessings, and to resolve to use our God-given talents in improving our communities.