Park and Pray at East Alabama Medical Center is Back

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PHOTO CONTRIBUTED TO THE OPELIKA OBSERVER

By Hannah Lester
hlester@opelikaobserver.com

The initiative — which invites residents of Lee County up to the top deck of the East Alabama Medical Center parking deck to pray for those working and being treated in the hospital — was started last year during the the COVID-19 pandemic.

The idea was originally implemented when the hospital shut down to visitors, said Tara Albright, one of the organizers for the Park and Pray movement. Albright began to share the idea on social media and with more people and it really took off.

“There were a lot of people at first,” she said. “A lot of people.”

Park and Pray takes place every night from 7 to 7:30 p.m. The idea is to drive to the top deck, face the hospital and put the car lights on so those in the hospital know there are people praying for them. If anyone gets out of their car to pray, policy at EAMC is to wear a mask, Albright said.

When the Park and Pray was first kickstarted, it lasted several months.

“I think they had it scheduled for a week or two but we just kept going,” Albright said.“I had a group of friends that they went with me every single night for gosh, 77 days. Then we changed it to twice a week. So, we went throughout the whole year last year.”

As cases improved and things were looking up in the COVID-19 pandemic, the visits decreased until they ultimately stopped.

Now, however, Park and Pray is back in place. On Wednesday, people were back — facing their cars toward the hospital again and lifting up healthcare workers and patients in prayer.

At times those there for Park and Pray would find the families of patients in the hospital up there praying too.

“It’s been a blessing,” Albright said. “… A lot of people come back, even after, no matter what’s happened and they join in as well.”

Nurses too, have made their way up to the top floor of the parking deck to pray for their patients.

“We’ve seen them just drop to their knees on the top deck, just in sheer desperation and exhaustion,” Albright said. “It’s been something. That place holds a very special place in my heart up there on the top deck. We’ve seen some miraculous stories and then we’ve seen some sad stories.”

Albright’s son is a nurse as well, one who doesn’t currently handle COVID-19 patients, but did work with COVID-19 in the past.

“The need is just there [for prayer],” she said. “They’ve just seen so much. Many have post-traumatic stress. And there’s nothing better than to be able to walk out of the hospital and see prayer going on on the top deck, hear the worship music. We get just message after message after message of just how inspiring it was and how much it helped them.

“… We pray for strength for them, for endurance, for peace, that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

She offered encouragement to those being treated at EAMC as well.

“Do not give up,” Albright said. “They are not alone in the hospital room, that God is in there with them. There have been dire circumstances that people have turned around overnight. They have a story to tell.”

Albright reassured anyone who may be hesitant to come for Park and Pray — prayer does not need to be out loud and no one needs to get out of their car if they don’t want.

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