A prayer circle forms around PHKMC December 2017 (photo courtesy of PeaceHealth).

Since 2012, volunteers have formed a prayer circle around PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center on the day before Christmas. The seventh circle is planned for Monday.

The tradition was started by Ketchikan resident Rhonda Bolling when the baby of a young Coast Guard family experienced complications in utero.

“It was very scary that they were going to lose that baby. And they could not get medevacked until 24 weeks, because that is the viable age when that is allowed.  So they went to my church and I said, ‘What if we can pray around the hospital.’ I had no idea if five people would show up, or 20 or 50. I had no idea.”

Rhonda Bolling provides instructions at the 2017 prayer circle (photo courtesy of PHKMC).

She says she planned to stand outside the hospital alone if no one else came.

“I still cry. I still get really emotional thinking about how, when I was standing out there by the emergency room, rivers of people flooded to that hospital. I had no idea the response we’d get because I basically started it two days before

Christmas Eve.”

Bolling says there wasn’t a count, but estimated more than 400 people participated that first year. She says the baby’s condition improved and the expectant mother was medevacked the day after Christmas. The little girl was born the following March, and Bolling says the girl is doing well today.

The tradition has since continued with prayers for everyone in the hospital – patients, families, doctors, nurses and staff.

Dr. David Johnson has been part of the prayer circle every year since it began. He says all are welcome to participate, whatever their beliefs.

Volunteers join in a prayer circle near the emergency room at PeaceHealth (photo courtesy of PHKMC).

“It’s very important to have everybody feel welcome and we will take prayer support from anyone that chooses to give it. We’re not looking for a particular viewpoint with that whole program. We’re illustrating to the community the importance of caring. And people can express their caring from whatever theological base they would like. We welcome all of them.”

Since the footprint of the hospital has expanded over the past few years, Bolling says more people are needed than previously. She says the program will include a prayer, linking of hands around the hospital and singing carols.

Those interested in participating in this year’s prayer circle should meet in the new parking garage at PeaceHealth by 12:15 p.m. Monday, December 24th. The garage will be closed to parking because of the event, so organizers recommend parking off campus, carpooling or taking the bus.