MOUNT AIRY — The light is always on. The heat is always up. And an air of peace rests over St. James Episcopal Church for those seeking spiritual support during wartime.
Since early January, the Main Street church has served as a round-the-clock sanctuary for people wanting a quiet place to reflect on events of the Persian Gulf war.
"The congregation elected to open the doors 24 hours a day and have invited the community to come if they need a place that is set apart for prayer and reflection," said the Rev. Robert D. Herzog, St. James pastor.
Church member Scott Rose said he and his wife, Mary Liz, visit the church about three nights a week.
"I have five familymembers in the gulf, so this kind of support is very important to me," he said. "The church as the heart of the community, and in a time of trial, the light of the heart is kept on."
The vigil reminds people to hope for peace and unites the congregation and community in praying for that goal, Rose said.
Rose said he would've preferred more time for economic sanctions to force Saddam Hussein to leave Kuwait, while a friend in the congregation supports the military action.
"It's clear to me we share the same goal (of peace) and we are seeking the best, most loving solution," he said. "Having the light on (in the church) reminds us we share a common goal and gives us an opportunity to share this time for prayer."
Ron Thomas -- whose daughter's boyfriend, William "Trey" Best, is serving in the war -- agreed.
"The one thing we all agree upon is seeking the will of the Lord," he said.
People should pray to find out why the war is happening, not just for one side or another to win, said Herzog.
"The question for Christians is what is God doing on Earth for heaven's sake," he said. "Whether or not war is the ultimate and continuous answer toworld problems is another question. I think there are some options, but if you bring enough toys to the sandbox, you have no option but to play with them."
Embracing in prayer soldiers on both sides of the war also is important, Thomas said.
"The Bible says to pray foryour enemies, and we adhere to that admonishment," he said. "It's always easy to pray for someone you love -- it's hard to pray for someone you don't agree with."
On Tuesdays at 7 p.m., congregation members are available for counseling or simply for conversation for thoseaffected by the war, Herzog said.
But sometimes, it's the counselor who needs help, said Rose.
"The first time I went to be a part of the parish group supporting other people, no one came," he said. "I found myself talking about my family in the gulf to the group. I thought I was going to be ministering, and I was the one who was ministered to."
People who stop by St. James to pray are encouraged to leave the name of the service member they are concerned about, Herzog said. The names are then added to a list the congregation mentions inprayers during Sunday and Wednesday services.
"In a couple of situations, we have put names together of military personnel that are serving in the same unit," he said, adding that the church has notifiedthem about each other. "They may not have connected the fact that they have a common interest in Mount Airy."