Drought spurs many prayers

Clergy, congregations mindful of those facing hardship

`We pull together'

August 08, 1999|By Zanto Peabody | Zanto Peabody,SUN STAFF

We have waited for rain. Maybe it's time to pray for rain.

Or at least pray that the dry burn of the drought won't hurt so much.

The dry season has not escaped the attention of local clergy, who are remembering the drought victims in their prayers.

"The drought always pops up in our prayers for the faithful," said Chris Welsh, a seminarian at St. Louis Roman Catholic Church in Clarksville. "We are always concerned for the people who make their living from the land. We are now more than ever."

The St. Louis congregation begins Mass each week with ritual prayers for the pope and global concerns such as hurricanes and African famine. Then a congregant reads prayers submitted by parishioners making pleas for their Howard County neighbors.

"Weather is always a concern when you're visiting infirm seniors," Welsh said. "People are asking us especially to pray for the ones affected most by the drought."

On Ilchester Road, which runs beside the Patapsco River in northern Howard County, residents get their water from wells rather than from public utilities.

The water level in Emma Neubauer's well has sunk from 40 feet to 2 feet. Her family, members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church on Ilchester Road, began conserving what was left more than a month ago.

"We have been praying for victims of the drought before it was announced officially," said Neubauer, a secretary at Our Lady of Perpetual Help. "On our road, we have people who are really hurt by the drought, so praying for them is an everyday thing."

The Rev. Jack George, pastor of Lisbon United Methodist Church, agreed that while the drought and unyielding heat can be tolerated, the hardship hits home when it threatens the livelihood of members of his congregation.

"We pull together to pray for those who feel the basic hardship," he said. "Even those who are not members of our congregation. We have a member who raises beef cattle, and he has a couple of sons who grow a lot of hay. They are not members here, but they are part of the family we are praying for."

Keeping current

Events such as John F. Kennedy Jr.'s death and the Columbine school shootings find their way into the Rev. Mae Etta Harrison's sermons at Hopkins United Methodist Church in Highland. When she returns from vacation in three weeks, she may speak on the drought.

"I try to be contemporary and talk about the things that are going on in our lives today," Harrison said. "The worst of the drought may be over before I get back. But if not, it may be the most current thing to talk about."

Living through this drought has given Harrison a perspective on biblical disasters.

"We can make a comparison of what it was like in the times of Noah and the drought with the children of Israel in Egypt," the former history teacher said. "Maybe what we thought were miracles or great big acts of God were just scientific phenomena. I don't know if it's an act of God or just part of the universe. But I don't think God is punishing us with no rain."

Some with withered crops and wells down to the backwash could use a miracle. Don't bet on it, Harrison said.

"I believe in miracles," she said. "But maybe we shouldn't be waiting on some magical happening."

Making the best of it

The faith of Carla Bradford allows her to turn the drought from a climatological disaster into a tongue-in-cheek church promotion. Bradford, the wife of Ellicott City Assembly of God pastor Richard Bradford, designed church bulletins advertising "No-Drought Sunday School, where the word flows freely."

For the church's 10th anniversary, Bradford is asking members to bring flowers -- if they have any left.

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