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Band breaks barriers through prayer, praise
Group hopes to take message to White House
Ruby Brawner leads the Gainesville Prayer Band once a month at local churches. - photo by Times file photo
Ruby Brawner and the Gainesville Prayer Band have been meeting once a month early on Sunday mornings, praying for the Gainesville community for 60 years.

Now, the prayer group is hoping to take their prayers and blessings all the way to the White House this summer.

"It just came to me one night," said Brawner, about the idea to go to the White House. "To pray for (President Barack Obama) and the whole country. If it is the Lord's will, we will get there."

Brawner has been the president of the prayer band since 1983, and she made the announcement to the rest of the group in early January. Now, members are behind her and the chance to pray for the country in the White House.

She said if the prayer brand can get an invitation, she will find a way to get their financially.

The Gainesville Prayer Band was organized in 1950 by Blanche Alexander and started by meeting in her house on Saturday nights to pray. The group grew too large to stay in a home, so they began to travel to different churches to pray.

Brawner took over the group in 1983 after Alexander passed away, and later Brawner's plan was to break racial barriers and meet in local white churches along with traditionally African-American churches.

"I was persistent; after I got in one door, I would try another until we had (six) white churches," Brawner said during a 2007 interview with The Times.

In 1995, the Rev. John Lee Taylor, the former pastor at First Baptist Church in Gainesville, was the first pastor of a traditionally white church to allow the group to meet there.

Today the Gainesville Prayer Band divides its time throughout the year between six historically black churches and six historically white churches.

And now that Brawner has achieved her first goal of breaking racial barriers, she now has her sights set even higher.
"We want to go from the white churches to the White House," Brawner said.

The Rev. Shawn Gray, pastor of Gainesville Bethel Church of the Nazarene, said he has been a member of the prayer band for about four years and loves the idea of taking prayers to the White House.

"I think it is a good plan to be able to assist our president in some decision making and be in prayer for him and in prayer for our nation," Gray said. "Which is much needed at this crucial time that we're in, for we understand that he has some difficult decisions that he has to make."

Gray has been a part of another prayer band in another city, and said this group is definitely unique.

"We come together to pray for the community, to pray for each other and to simply petition God for direction and to help us in everyday decisions. And it has been worthwhile," he said. "... We are all from different denominations - some are Baptist, some Methodist and I'm Nazarene."

At 6 a.m. the first Sunday of every month, the prayer band meets at a local church. The focus of the meeting is prayer and praise.

"The main thing for this past week was for Haiti," Brawner said. "We put them a special prayer for Haiti and we prayed for the soldiers - we always pray for the soldiers - and then we have a program and we have some people on our sick list, so we pray for the individuals on our sick list.

"We prayed for the community and we always bring in the churches, white, black or whatever, we pray for the churches."

Prayer is followed by testimony and music.

"Then we take our offering and then we read our mission. That's our conclusion, and then we dismiss and one goes this way and one goes that way," said Brawner, a member of Antioch Baptist Church in Gainesville.

During Brawner's 53 years in Gainesville, she has spent many hours each week volunteering for Meals on Wheels, Northeast Georgia Medical Center and to women in prison.

And Brawner - who is known around Gainesville for her outbursts of "truly" during church service - isn't ready to quit.

"The Lord has been good to me," she said. " I have asked lots of people to do things for me and as far as I can remember, I don't remember anybody, white or black, turned me down."