Entertainer adds levity to somber event.
More than 300 business people and community leaders gathered at the Valencia Hyatt Thursday morning for the 4th Annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast.
The event, sponsored by the Christian businessmen's organization The Dunamis Group, was a local observation of the National Day of Prayer.
After an opening blessing by Pastor Mike Gaston of Grace Baptist Church, organizer and Dunamis president Joe Messina introduced Santa Clarita Mayor Pro Tem Frank Ferry, who attended the breakfast representing Mayor Bob Kellar, who was in Washington D.C.
Ferry's message embraced the phrase "Love Thy Neighbor" but warned those assembled not to put qualifications on that slogan.
"We say the words, but they are sometimes followed by 'but don't put that homeless shelter in my backyard," he said. "The words teach us to include the less fortunate; those unable to receive meals. Remember that Jesus taught us to embrace everyone, without adding the words "unless they are Hispanic," or "unless they are African-American."
Ferry was followed by this year's keynote speaker, entertainer Fred Travalena, who told the crowd he felt God's presence strongly as a three-time cancer survivor.
He quickly brought a smile to the crowd's faces with an impression of the inaugural address as done by the last nine presidents and asked them to imagine Jack Nicholson as president, donning a pair of black Ray Bans that slid down his nose while he did the familiar voice.
Travalena also spent a good deal of time encouraging the crowd to support an effort to overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court which allows a woman freedom to choose whether or not to have an abortion. The words were met by a low murmur of support.
State Senate candidate Tony Strickland also addressed the group, talking about his belief that God leads him in ways he doesn't always understand, but usually turn out for the better.
After the event, Messina was extremely happy.
"This is a big deal to get elected officials willing to come up and share their faith," he said. "I think it went well."
Asked if he deliberately avoided the controversy that accompanied last year's event, when the keynote speaker was Capitol Ministries head Ralph Drollinger, who called female legislators “sinners” for leaving their children at home to serve in Sacramento, Messina indicated that the event has evolved over the years.
"Finding the right person for the venue is the key," he said. "Fred was exactly what we were looking for, someone who talked about God's influence in their life and share their message."