Friends of the court

Shane Russel, second from right, kneels in prayer with Bill Cheney Monday morning outside the Coconino County Courthouse at the Courtside Ministries prayer table. The group originated in Colorado and now has 47 tables in eight states.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun

A national group is providing a bit of comfort at the courthouse steps.

Courtside Ministries was set up with a table full of Christian pamphlets and offering to pray for anyone walking by the Coconino County Superior Courthouse on Monday.

Rev. Jim Singleton, the director of the group, said the organization was started in 2009 by Colorado Springs attorney Tyler Makepeace.

Makepeace practiced family, criminal and juvenile law and did adoption work, Singleton said. Makepeace realized that the justice system might be able to resolve his clients’ legal problems but it didn’t resolve the real source of their problems, the need to turn their lives around or make them better.

A born-again Christian, Makepeace began to share his faith with his clients, praying for them before and after court appearances and encouraging them to go to church, Singleton said. He didn’t really care which church they picked, he just wanted them to try it out.

Singleton said Makepeace started to see an improvement in his clients’ lives. He had more clients that were getting their lives back together and noticed that they were having fewer problems that sent them to the courthouse.

“When he told people what he was doing and what was happening, they would ask him, ‘Aren’t you worried about losing clients?’” Singleton said.

Makepeace would tell them that it actually brought him more clients because more people were referred to his office.

Makepeace wanted to expand his outreach and asked the presiding judge at the courthouse if he could set up a table in the courtyard and offer to pray for people walking by or entering the courthouse. The judge granted his request and soon Makepeace became a fixture outside as well as inside the courthouse. He recruited volunteers to help him in his cause, including Singleton.

After achieving success in Colorado Springs, Makepeace wanted to expand the program nationwide and traveled to the headquarters of the Christian Legal Society in Chicago. In Chicago, Makepeace and Singleton met Mike Kienapple, a businessman and ordained pastor. Kienapple helped launch Courtside Ministries nationwide.

The organization now has 48 tables set up in eight states, including four tables in Arizona: one in Prescott, two in Phoenix and now one in Flagstaff, Singleton said. At each location, the organization asks for permission before setting up from the presiding judge and reaches out to local churches for volunteers.

“We don’t force ourselves on people. We just ask them as they walk by if they want us to pray with them or pray for them,” Singleton said.

Some people accept and some don’t, he said. The group isn’t a part of any church and doesn’t promote any specific church, but tries to get information on and partner with local churches to provide people with information and collect volunteers for the table.

The reporter can be reached at sadams@azdailysun.com or (928)556-2253.

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Suzanne writes about education and business. She covers the local school district, charter schools and Northern Arizona University. She also writes the Sunday business features.

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