More than 125 county employees gathered in the county office building yesterday afternoon to pray for a miracle in the Persian Gulf.
Rabbi Martin Siegel of the Columbia Jewish congregation told the subdued gathering that the positive aspect of a crisis such as the one in the gulf is that it "brings people together and helps us to understand we really do need each other."
"It is an occasion to remember that we are not alone and to call for extra help and support in these times," Siegel said.
He offered prayers for the safe return of American troops, asking that God might "hear our cry . . . for the sons and daughters of Iraq as well as our own." He urged the gathered employees "to pray for a miracle" that reason might prevail over emotion.
When he asked if any among those gathered wished to share prayers with the group, David White, whowill become budget officer for the county school system Feb. 1, pleaded for people to "stand by your convictions."
Not one of the people he had spoken with in the last two days had called for war, he said. White urged everyone present to "call the White House if you thinkthis insanity has no place."
"It is our duty as citizens, and it is the moral thing to do," he said.
Siegel was joined in the 27-minute service by the Rev. Arthur Lillicrop, the Episcopal chaplain at Howard County General Hospital, and Mary Rekus, music minister of St.John's Roman Catholic Church in Columbia.
Rekus, accompanying herself on a guitar, sang "Time for Building Bridges" based on Scripturefrom Ecclesiastes. The chorus called on God to take people's hands, minds and hearts and make them one.
Lillicrop offered a litany forpeace from the Book of Common Prayer and prayed that people might learn to rely on God's strength to "make wise decisions for our society, . . . for our children and our children's children."
Rekus concluded the service by asking people to join her in singing "Peace is Flowing Like a River," "America the Beautiful" and "God Bless America."
The voices joined her as a murmur that grew stronger with each song. And when they had finished, several employees could not restrain themselves from tears.
It was wonderful that employees "could takestock of ourselves and pray to our God," County Administrator Buddy Roogow said. "It is not something we have done in recent years."