Area churches focus prayer on war, safety of troops

Peace demonstration, candlelight vigil also held

War in Iraq

March 24, 2003|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Prayers for peace, for protection of American troops, for wisdom among world leaders and for the safety of the people of Iraq reverberated in churches and in streets throughout the area yesterday.

The Rev. Richard B. Hilgartner, associate pastor at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, began the 11 a.m. Mass with a call "to pray in a special way for God's justice and power to bring us to safety and peace."

"The war is in the front of people's minds," Hilgartner said. "We are all thinking about it and praying."

After Mass, a line formed as people wrote names of loved ones and prayers for peace in a book of intentions placed near the cathedral's main altar . Several pages were filled with the names and ranks of those serving in the war and with petitions for peace.

Catherine Thalheimer, a cathedral parishioner, came to Mass with her grandson, 1st Lt. Paul Thalheimer, on her mind. The family has not heard from the Marine officer since the war started.

"I come here every Sunday to pray, but, if you really want to know, I am praying every day all the time for him and for all the military," she said.

Cardinal William H. Keeler said he had asked parishes to pray "that the hostilities would be over quickly with a minimum loss of life and that those serving come home quickly and safely."

"Prayer is more intense now and the intentions are very vivid," said Keeler, who presided over the installation of a new pastor for Our Lady of the Fields in Millersville yesterday.

Keeler said he was heartened that the Rev. Gene Nichol included petitions for the military in his first sermon as pastor.

Church leaders have a moral obligation to urge members to focus their prayers on the war, said Pat Goodman, senior teaching pastor at Grace Fellowship Church, a nondenominational Christian congregation on Deereco Road in Timonium.

"The time is over to be preaching sermons about whether or not to go to war, because that will only divide us," Goodman said yesterday. "There's fear, uncertainty and confusion. ... It brings comfort to say God is involved."

About 900 people who attended the 11:30 a.m. service observed five minutes of silence for individual prayers.

"We comfort each other and offer strength for each other," said Muriel Campbell of Timonium, who added that Goodman's sermon helped relieve fear.

About 1,300 members of Israel Baptist Church on North Chester Street prayed at four services yesterday for the safety of the troops and for President Bush.

"I cannot imagine the weight this man is carrying," Pastor Harlie Wilson said of the president. "The decision he makes impacts the world. He must have the guidance of the Almighty God."

On North Charles Street, in the shadow of the cathedral, a youth group from Stony Run Friends First Day School carried homemade signs urging motorists to "honk for peace."

During the hourlong demonstration that started about noon, 12-year-old Jeremy White counted nearly 200 honks of support. Jeremy's sign was more elaborate than the others. It asked, "How can a bomb tell the difference between a civilian and a soldier?"

Josie LaBua, 12, said, "We have been booed and ignored, but we have also had a lot of positive encouragement."

Teacher Donny Gann said "this is a good way for kids to express peace testimony."

Last night, more than 200 hundred people gathered near Baltimore's Washington Monument for a candlelight vigil for peace that included prayer and song. Organized by the American Service Friends Committee, it was the second such vigil at the monument in as many weeks. Those involved said the war's casualties have re-energized their anti-war sentiment.

"There is enormous distress and sadness at the deaths that our president is causing," said Nick Sheridan, a member of Citizens for Peace.

"One was from Baltimore. He didn't need to die," added Sheridan, referring to the death of Marine Staff Sgt. Kendall D. Waters-Bey, 29, of Northeast Baltimore.

"We still believe what we believed before the war: that we need to move toward peace and community-building in the world," said Gary Gillespie, a program coordinator with the ASFC. "War is not the answer. We support the troops, we should bring them home."

Sun staff writers Johnathon E. Briggs and Rebecca McClay contributed to this article.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.