Mayor Rick Baker hosts his last prayer breakfast before leaving office in January
ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Baker's face was serene. He strummed the first few notes of Amazing Grace on his guitar and took a breath.
Thursday morning marked his final Mayor's Prayer Breakfast, an annual event he founded with the YMCA. More than 500 people — from politicos to pageant queens — filled the coliseum, listening to music and clergymen.
Baker's red tie was covered in tiny ichthys, the criss-crossed fish symbol adopted by Christians.
"I believe in the power of prayer," said Baker, whose last day in office is Jan. 1. "I believe in individual prayer, I believe in corporate prayer. I think it works."
The event, not funded by taxpayers, has been an annual trademark of Baker's eight years in St. Petersburg's highest office. It's one of his favorite events. He moved through the room Thursday shaking hands and hugging most everyone.
This year, it came in the midst of an election in which religion, dinosaurs and evolution have become political throwing stars. It came at a time when billboards around town promote merging God and politics.
Mayoral candidates Bill Foster and Kathleen Ford both attended. The mayor publicly welcomed them both, but Foster, a conservative Christian, sat at a table with Baker's family. Both candidates said they would continue the breakfast if elected.