Area clergy have asked for the community’s help in praying for patients and health care professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This evening, Calvary Baptist Church in Winchester will host a community-wide prayer gathering in the parking lot of Winchester Medical Center. Drivers will remain in their cars and turn on their lights or emergency flashers in support of health care professionals.

About 13 other churches have been invited to participate, said Pastor Philip King.

It will be “a show of support and courage and solidarity,” he said.

The prayer gathering, scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Green and Gray parking lots by the South Tower, will unintentionally help fulfill a request by Valley Health’s Chaplaincy Services, which has asked area clergy to pray for hospital patients and staff.

In a Monday email to area clergy, Lead Chaplain Melanie K. Lewis wrote asking people to pray at several points during the day to cover different parts of employees’ hospital shifts.

“Our patients and staff would be uplifted if you would begin praying for them regularly,” she wrote in the email. “If you, or people in your congregation, would be willing to commit to praying at the beginning, middle and end of shifts, we would be grateful.”

Lewis asked that people pray at 7 a.m., noon, 7 p.m. and midnight.

“In this way, staff can remember that they are always being prayed for, as they do the important work they do for our patients,” she wrote.

King had already been in touch with Rob Looney at the hospital’s chaplaincy service about holding the prayer gathering, but they first needed permission from local law enforcement and hospital administration before moving forward with the event.

Lewis said it was unintentional that the prayer gathering was scheduled for one of her requested prayer times.

"It just happened that way," she said.

The times she suggested are based on when many hospital shifts begin and end, particularly 12-hour nursing shifts.

Patients and staff have been told that the community is praying for their recovery, Lewis said.

“They are kind of amazed,” she said. Knowing that people will be praying for them at specific times, she said, “That’s a gift.”

Staff also now have the option of calling into a conference line to start or end their shift with a prayer, she said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed lots of things,” Lewis said. “There’s a stress now that’s never been present before. … And so it helps to know that someone is praying for them.”

Details about today’s prayer gathering are posted at Calvary Baptist’s Facebook page, along with a prayer guide:

1. Pray for patients at the hospitals in our region, and those at home, who have the COVID-19 virus: for their healing and overcoming fear and loneliness due to their isolation.

2. Pray for doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and other clinical staff as they treat patients: to have wisdom in providing care, and protection form COVID-19.

3. Pray for staff as they carry burdens for their children at home who are out of school.

4. Pray for support staff, housekeepers, dietitians, patient transporters, food preparers, and laundry staff: that they are also protected.

5. Pray for Valley Health leadership as they make decisions and lead in these challenging times.

6. Pray for hospital chaplains to have God’s grace and peace as we minister to the sick, hurting and grieving

King said he had the idea for the prayer gathering after hearing about similar events around the country.

The last two Thursdays, he said, “We’ve been doing prayer drive-ins at our church. … We wanted to step it up a notch.”

For more information on the church, visit calvarywinchester.org.

Contact Josette Keelor at jkeelor@nvdaily.com