Local pastor inspires community through weekly prayer walk

Published 7:00 am Friday, August 18, 2023

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John Girdley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Greenville, has made quite an impression in the downtown community. For close to two years, Girdley has made a weekly prayer walk from the courthouse down to the Chamber of Commerce building, on both sides of Commerce Street. 

Girdley said his prayer walk is simply intended to support the community by getting to know them and praying for any of their needs. 

“I’m an extreme introvert,” Girdley said. “So to even do something like this is way out of my comfort zone. But I just really felt the Lord telling me to go, at least once, and get to know my community by letting them know who I am and that I’m praying for them. I did it once and then the next week I had forgotten some of their names, so I did it again. This has continued now for 23 straight months.”

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Sonya Rice, owner of Sonya’s Dance & Fitness downtown, credits Girdley’s prayer support with inspiring her to return to the First Baptist Church’s congregation. 

“I was unlocking my studio doors one day when a stranger called out to me that he was praying for me,” Rice said. “I had never seen him before and didn’t know he was the new pastor, so I felt a little skeptical but also touched and it lightened my spirit. Soon after I broke my wrist and was going through a hard time, I found out Pastor John had been praying for me due to a request from one of my yoga students. That first meeting on his prayer walk, and his continued support is what brought me back to the First Baptist, my childhood church. God is so good, and is definitely working through Pastor John.”

Craig Waller, owner of Greenville 24hr Fitness, said he deeply values what Girdley brings to the community.

“The community is very blessed to have him a part of it,” Waller said. “His weekly ‘pop-ins’ have been a blessing to us and our customers. I’ve never met such a soft spoken, humble, positive, optimistic person as Pastor John. He literally talks the talk and walks the walk!”

Girdley and his family came to Greenville from Avon Park, Florida two years ago. Avon Park is a much bigger city, Girdley explained, and the layout did not allow him to do a prayer walk as he is able to do here. Girdley said these prayer walks are truly a privilege.

“I let God lead in that moment, I just duck my head into a business or office and I let them know that I’m thankful for them and that I’m praying for them,” Girdley said. “Sometimes folks already have a prayer request waiting on me, and with others we pray right then in the moment together. Prayer is simply talking to God, looking to Him, and trusting in Him. It’s just been a wonderful experience for me as folks have been so receptive, kind and gracious to allow me to come into their office. It has strengthened my faith and it means the world to me and I pray it does to them as well.”

Tammy Edwards, an employee of Greenville Water Works, said she looks forward to Girdley’s weekly visits.

“My husband has been sick, so it’s been very helpful,” Edwards said. “It lifts my spirits, helps me feel motivated and just makes my day. I think it’s a wonderful thing he’s doing. I look forward to him coming in here every week.”

Girdley makes his weekly prayer routes on Thursday and Friday mornings, depending on when certain offices and businesses are open. He wants the community to know that he is here for anyone in need of prayers and support, and that God is in control of it all.