JAMESTOWN, N.Y. — Never underestimate the power of prayer. Truer words have never been spoken for a senior living community in Chautauqua County.
Every Wednesday at noon for the last year now, retired Rev. Douglas Knopp leads a group of his neighbors in the Lord's Prayer, the Our Father, outside their homes at the Woodlands Senior Living Community in Jamestown.
Doug says he formed this outdoor prayer group early in the pandemic in an effort to help lift the spirits of his friends and neighbors after the COVID-19 shutdown.
"Hold us up. And give us strength for each day," said Doug.
In addition to the weekly prayer service, Doug also started emailing the group daily devotional messages to keep his neighbors connected at a time when they were cut off from the outside world.
"To give us hope for the uncertainty that we were facing,” said Doug. “Because none of us knew what was going to happen. We all just knew we had to stay confined to our homes, wear a mask, wash our hands and avoid people.”
"We knew how frightened everybody was. There's strength in unity," said Doug' wife, Judy Knopp.
Judy, who's also a counselor, helps write those daily messages under the pen name of "Church Mouse" and offers people advice on ways to cope with their feelings amid the pandemic.
She credits the success of the prayer group to years of working to get her neighbors out of their homes and bringing them together.
"We began doing community building and that's what's kept us so strong through all of this. We helped each other," said Judy.
"I feel so blessed to have them as my neighbors. They have really been rocks in the midst of all this turmoil. It was so important to find something to latch hold of in a time when there was nothing to latch on to. Everything was kind of falling apart," said Ann Lawson, of Jamestown.
Lawson is a member of the community and weekly prayer group, a group whose members have all had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
She said the group has helped her get through what has been a difficult time from the very start.
"We were just in a panic. This has been one of the toughest times in my 71 years of living. It spoke for our faith coming out here and doing as we did this week to share the Lord's Prayer," said Lawson.
Doug says it's that faith that enables the community to find strength in each other and not give up the ship.
"And we can get through it together because we're stronger together than we are as individuals, separated," said Doug.