Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Organizers of Bible reading marathon to bring the sacred to steps of Tampa City Hall

TAMPA — Visitors to Tampa City Hall will hear something different — something hallowed — in the air next week.

Amid the typical government banter, volunteers will stand on the building's front steps and read aloud the words of Abraham and Moses, of John the Baptist and Jesus.

They will read.

And read some more.

Around the clock, for 90 hours, until every single word has been uttered from Genesis to Revelation.

At least 50 individuals and church groups have signed up to take on two-hour legs of the spiritual relay, the feat beginning at 6 p.m. Sunday and lasting till noon Thursday. Organizers hope more will join in the coming days.

It should not be mistaken for a statement on the separation of church and state, said Joy Green, chairwoman of Tampa's National Day of Prayer task force, which is behind the "Bible Read-A-Thon."

"We really don't have an argument about that," she said. "Our job as Christians is to pray for the government."

Reading the Bible, she said, is prayer in its simplest form. "When the Bible is read, you don't have to preach. You don't have to talk. You don't have to give your opinion."

The city granted Green's group a routine "advocacy" permit that would be needed to put up a menorah or hold an Easter parade in the same part of downtown, said Greg Bayor, director of parks and recreation.

The American Civil Liberties Union saw no problem with City Hall as a biblical stage.

"As long as that area is open and accessible to the public, they have every right to be there and do exactly that," said Derek Newton, communications director for ACLU of Florida.

The read-a-thon is one of several events connected with this year's National Day of Prayer, which takes place Thursday. Groups across the United States will gather to pray for the country, for families, for the downtrodden.

Locally, there will also be a daytime worship service and a finale prayer event that night at George M. Steinbrenner Field, featuring prayers by area pastors and proclamations by local dignitaries, including Mayor Bob Buckhorn and state Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico. A brunch featuring Billy Graham's daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, and sponsored by a different group has sold out, according to its website.

The marathon reading is not unique. Green, who has organized local prayer day events for 12 years, remembers having done the same thing a decade ago. She got the idea to revive it after a trip to Washington, D.C., last year where a similar event takes place. There, she said, members of Congress even took part.

The 23rd annual U.S. Capitol Bible Reading Marathon is already under way. Volunteers began reading Friday from the Capitol's West Front. They'll finish Tuesday.

Tampa task force members hope the read-a-thon and other changes to this year's National Day of Prayer activities will boost participation in all denominations. Last year, several hundred attended a daytime prayer service at Lykes Gaslight Square Park.

That's much too small for an area this size, said Jennifer Mallan, a task force member and co-pastor of Christian Family Church. This year, organizers moved the event to an evening slot and the bigger Steinbrenner Field, hoping 15,000 will show up for the day's finale, she said.

An anonymous donor jump-started promotional efforts with a generous donation. The task force had 250,000 "tickets" printed to advertise the free events. Members secured space on six billboards, ads in Christian magazines and local TV and radio spots touting the prayer finale. Area pastors received promotional kits. Expenses have exceeded $30,000, Mallan said.

The National Day of Prayer is worth all the effort, she said.

"This is a pivotal year spiritually. It's an election year and you've got a lot going on in the Middle East with Israel, and people are still feeling the effects of our economy."

Sharon Tubbs can be reached at or (813) 226-3394.


National Day of Prayer events

• Bible Read-A-Thon, on the steps of Tampa City Hall, 315 E Kennedy Blvd. 6 p.m. Sunday to noon Thursday. To sign up, send an email to

• Worship service with music from local groups. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Lykes Gaslight Square Park, 410 N Franklin St.

• Prayer service, 7 p.m., George M. Steinbrenner Field (near N Dale Mabry Highway and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard). Area pastors will say brief prayers; Christian recording artist Ricardo Sanchez will sing. Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Sen. Ronda Storms and County Commissioner Ken Hagan will attend. Free admission and parking. Call (813) 642-3488 or visit ndptam

Organizers of Bible reading marathon to bring the sacred to steps of Tampa City Hall 04/27/12 [Last modified: Friday, April 27, 2012 10:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Comedian and activist Dick Gregory dies at 84


    The comedian Dick Gregory rose to national prominence in the early 1960s as a black satirist whose audacious style of humor was biting, subversive and topical, mostly centered on current events, politics and above all, racial tensions. His trademark was the searing punchline.

    Dick Gregory, a comedian, activist and author, died Saturday. [Tribune News Service, 2011]
  2. Winter Haven police investigating armed robbery at Dollar General


    WINTER HAVEN — Police are investigating an armed robbery Friday night of a Dollar General store on W Lake Ruby Drive.

  3. Rowdies settle for draw at home


    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  4. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.