Weekly religion rail, with items on the day of prayer, a Bible-reading marathon, the seventh day of Passover and more.

All faiths welcome on day of prayer

The National Day of Prayer is a day designated by the United States Congress as a day when all Americans regardless of faith are asked to come together and pray in their own way. It is held on the first Thursday in May, which is May 1 this year.

On April 17, 1952, President Harry S. Truman signed a bill proclaiming the National Day of Prayer into law. It was in 1972 that the National Prayer Committee was formed. It went on to create the National Day of Prayer Task Force, with the intended purpose of coordinating events for the National Day of Prayer. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law decreeing that the National Day of Prayer should be held on the first Thursday of May.

Those opposed to a national day of prayer have established another observance that coincides with the National Day of Prayer called the National Day of Reason.

Bible-reading marathon to begin Sunday

The 19th annual U.S. Capitol Bible Reading Marathon will begin at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 27. For 90 continuous hours, every word of the Bible will be read aloud and without comment, ending at 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 1, with the reading of the final chapters of Revelation.

During those five days, hundreds will gather on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol to read or listen to a portion of the Bible. The U.S. Capitol Bible Reading Marathon began in 1990. It is part of a weeklong celebration of prayer and the Bible.

The marathon will be Webcast around the world at www.DCBibleMarathon.org

All about the seventh day of Passover

In Israel, Passover is a seven-day holiday, with the first and last days observed as legal holidays and as holy days involving abstention from work, special prayer services, and holiday meals.

The seventh day of Passover, Shvi'i shel Pesach, is a full Jewish holiday, with special prayer services and festive meals that will be held Saturday, April 26.

This holiday commemorates the day the Children of Israel reached the Red Sea and witnessed both the miraculous splitting of the sea, the drowning of all the Egyptian chariots, horses and soldiers that pursued them, and the passage of the red sea.

Hasidic Rebbes traditionally hold a tish, or gathering, on the night of Shvi'i shel Pesach and place a cup or bowl of water on the table before them. They use this opportunity to speak about the splitting of the sea to their disciples, and sing songs of praise to God.

Survey Says

An extensive survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life details the religious affiliation of the American public and explores the shifts taking place in the U.S. religious landscape.

People not affiliated with any particular religion stand out for their relative youth compared with other religious traditions. Among the unaffiliated, 31 percent are younger than 30 and 71 percent are younger than 50. Comparable numbers for the overall adult population are 20 percent and 59 percent, respectively.

Good Book?

“A Church of Her Own: What Happens When a Woman Takes the Pulpit” by Sarah Sentilles.

Thirty years after the first group of women was ordained by the Episcopal Church, women are among some of the most vital and successful ministers in all Protestant denominations, even as churches struggle to hold on to their members.

Sentilles enters the lives of female ministers — women of various ages and races, in a range of churches — to paint a portrait of what it’s like to serve as a woman of faith today. Their stories take readers from their calls to the pulpit through their ordinations and service in congregations. These women show readers how the church can be more welcoming to the women who are its lifeblood.

Get to Know … John Knox

John Knox (1510–1572) was a Scottish clergyman and leader of the Protestant Reformation who is considered the founder of the Presbyterian denomination.

Influenced by early church reformers such as George Wishart, he joined the movement to reform the Scottish church. He was caught up in the ecclesiastical and political events that involved the murder of Cardinal Beaton in 1546 and the intervention of the regent of Scotland, Mary of Guise. He was taken prisoner by French forces the following year and exiled to England on his release in 1549.

While in exile, Knox was licensed to work in the Church of England, where he quickly rose in the ranks to serve the King of England, Edward VI, as a royal chaplain. In this position, he exerted a reforming influence on the text of the Book of Common Prayer. In England he met and married his first wife, Marjorie. When Mary Tudor ascended the throne and re-established Roman Catholicism, Knox was forced to resign his position and leave the country.

Knox first moved to Geneva and then to Frankfurt. In Geneva, he met John Calvin, from whom he gained experience and knowledge of Reformed theology and Presbyterian polity. He created a new order of service, which was eventually adopted by the reformed church in Scotland.

On his return to Scotland, he led the Protestant Reformation in Scotland, in partnership with the Scottish Protestant nobility.

The Word

Omnipotence: The concept that God has infinite power; he is able to do anything that he wishes that is consistent with his own personality. -- Religioustolerance.org

Religion Around the World

Religious makeup of Sweden

Lutheran: 87 percent

Other (includes Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist): 13 percent

- CIA Factbook

GateHouse News Service