Governor, with help from Christian leaders, appeals to God to fortify Alaska in virus battle

Gov. Mike Dunleavy proclaimed April 10 a day of prayer and hope, then turned his livestream over to faith leaders. (Like most subjects in the 18-minute video, this man was not identified.)(Screenshot/Vimeo)

Amid daily press conferences about the advance of COVID-19, Alaska’s governor on Good Friday added an afternoon event striking a different note.

“Now therefore, I, Mike Dunleavy, governor of the great state of Alaska, do hereby proclaim April 10 as Alaska’s day of prayer and hope,” he said from a podium affixed with the official state seal.

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Dunleavy read a proclamation, said a prayer and then turned his livestream over to religious leaders, starting with Franklin Graham, whose aid organization, Samaritan’s Purse, recently delivered to Alaska supplies to fight the virus.

Franklin Graham, son of the late Rev. Billy Graham, is head of Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical aid organization.

“Our heavenly Father, we come to you now and we pray for the state of Alaska. We Pray for the governor. We pray for all the legislators. We pray for the first responders and especially for the nurses and doctors that are tending to so many people in the state,” said Graham, son of the late Rev. Billy Graham, in a video address.

Dunleavy then introduced an 18-minute video featuring Alaska faith leaders. It included a Catholic – Andrew Bellisario, bishop of Juneau – but most of the prayers were of an evangelical nature.

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“Mighty God, we pray for wisdom, guidance and supernatural understanding for our governor and local leaders,” said one participant, a woman whom the video did not identify. She was filmed in an office, with an open book of Scripture on the desk. “We plead the blood of Jesus over first responders and medical personnel. We pray that this disease flatlines during the precious season of the Passover celebration and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

One faith leader who did not participate was Rev. Michael Burke of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Anchorage. Burke said he’d learned from news accounts the even would take place on Friday. He said it didn’t appeal to him.

Rev. Michael Burke of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Anchorage. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

“In my experience, many of those events are rather narrowly focused on a particular subset of the Christian community and aren’t really representative even of the breadth of the Christian community, let alone that of the other faith traditions,” he said.

Burke said he wishes such events were pitched to be more inclusive of other religions, beyond the conservative evangelicals and Pentecostals. But Burke said he did not want to be too critical at a time when Alaskans are hungry for unity.