With heads bowed, the students prayed for their school, their classmates and their country.
The gathering of about 60 students at McCallie School mirrored similar gatherings at public and private schools across the Chattanooga area Wednesday morning. The time of prayer was part of the annual "See You at the Pole" rally.
William Cady, a senior at McCallie, helped organize the event at his school. He led the group in prayer, talking about the tumultuous state of domestic and international politics. The issues he has been seeing on the news have been on his heart, he said.
"With everything that's going on right now in our country ... this is what we really need," he said.
On a typical day after chapel at McCallie, a private school, around 20 students gather for prayer, said Brown Hayes, a senior who leads prayer groups. Wednesday's group was around triple that — a bigger turnout than previous years, Hayes said.
"With our background in Christianity, I think it's good to pray and ask God for what we need," he said.
The rallies were advertised at 18 schools, including Ooltewah High, Grace Academy and the Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts. Some included singing along with the prayer.
Such gatherings, which take place each year on the fourth Wednesday of September, began in 1990 and have expanded to a national level. The rallies are organized by students because public school-sponsored or organized prayer is unconstitutional based on the First Amendment.
Christin Garland, a junior at East Hamilton High School, said Wednesday marked her sixth rally. She was inspired by the number of people who gathered at her school, around 50 students, she said. Many were new faces to being open about their faith, she said.
"I just love getting to see everyone at our school rally ... you get to see Jesus here," Garland said.
There are not many openly Christian students at Lookout Valley High School, Gabe Rains said. Having a rally Wednesday morning is one way for students to hold one another accountable, the senior said.
"It's a good way to start off your day," Rains said. "A lot of kids just wake up and go to school. ... Even if it's just a few minutes, prayer is good."
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