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Ferry leads Mayors Breakfast

• Kellar in Washington lobbying for anti-mining bill.

Posted: May 2, 2008 12:55 a.m.
Updated: July 3, 2008 5:02 a.m.

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Everyone except the mayor joined in prayer at the fourth annual Santa Clarita Valley Mayors Prayer Breakfast in Valencia on Thursday.

From town council presidents to water district board members, mayors by every stretch of the definition gathered to pray for guidance on the National Day of Prayer.

Organizers said Mayor Bob Kellar could not attend the event because he is in Washington, D.C., lobbying for a bill that could stop plans for mining in Soledad Canyon.

"Bob really wanted to be here, but it's a good reason to miss the breakfast," said Joe Messina of the Dunamis Group, a group of Christian businessmen who hosted the event.

Mayor Pro-Tem Frank Ferry filled in for Kellar and gave the crowd of 300 people at the Valencia Hyatt a message of acceptance.

"It's such a simple concept: Love thy neighbor," he said. "It's so easy to say those words, but it's so hard to put them into action."

He said when it comes to addressing the valley's homeless population, people use words like "Love thy neighbor," but then say, "'Don't put that homeless shelter next to us.'"

Acceptance should be unconditional, he said.

"If we can believe that and bring that message out and embrace every member of our community of different races, different ethnic backgrounds and different religions, what a great place this will continue to be to live," he said.

Four pastors and a priest prayed for the Santa Clarita Valley's teachers, students, seniors, law enforcement, first responders and Santa Clarita city staff.

"We acknowledge you in our government, we acknowledge you in our elections and we acknowledge you in our leaders," Tobiah Neiditch, of Glorified Church, said in a prayer. "It is your will that our elected leaders must follow."

Thousands of mayoral prayer breakfasts are held across the country throughout the year, Messina said. Some are sponsored by municipal governments, while others are organized by community groups.

Members of the Santa Clarita Valley Interfaith Council and others have criticized the group for the event's exclusive nature. Some say using the word "mayor" in the event name blurs the separation of church and state.

"It's not as inclusive as I'd like something like that to be," said George McLeary, a Lutheran pastor at the Church of Hope in Canyon Country and president of the Interfaith Council.

The Dunamis Group responded to the criticism last year by eliminating the apostrophe from what used to be the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast to expand the definition of mayor to include other local leaders.

Messina said the event is not meant to exclude other faiths.

"We invited them all, not to pray, obviously, but to partake in the event," he said. "(The mayor) is, in essence, the head of what happens in our community, so we want to pray for him. Just to call it a community prayer breakfast would really be watering down what the intent is."

The group took a more light-hearted approach with the keynote speaker this year, choosing comedian Fred Travalena, who performed impressions of celebrities and politicians.

Last year, the group chose the controversial Ralph Drollinger, a pastor of Capitol Ministries who had become known for statements that mothers working in the state legislature are sinners.

Messina said Drollinger wasn't the group's first choice last year.

"Not that he was our last choice, but he was actually chosen because the guy we had had to back out," Messina said.

He said the group will likely continue the comic relief approach in future years.

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