Praying for peace

Local church officials see people turning to church in time of war

With war upon the nation, local church leaders say many area residents will try to make sense out of the conflict through God.

While none of the churches contacted Thursday have any special services planned in the wake of Wednesday's war announcement, leaders said that one item will definitely be addressed in their prayers -- a quick end to the conflict and the safety of all those involved.

Father Ernest Bayer of St. Michael's Catholic Church in Craig said the troops and the people of a country a half a world away have been, and will continue to be in the church's prayers.

"We've been praying for peace for months and now we're praying for a quick end to the problem," he said.

Christians are peace-seeking people, Bayer said, and the official leader of their church, Pope John Paul II, had spoken for peace before the conflict erupted.

But now is the time to pray for President George W. Bush, the soldiers overseas and others in harm's way, he said.

"Bush is a Christian and he's doing what he thinks is best for the safety of the nation in the long run," he said. "We'll pray that they can get in and get it done as quickly as possible. We'll continue to pray for peace, safety and justice."

Pastor Dave Ross of the Craig Assembly of God said his congregation has been praying for the president for weeks.

"This needed to happen," he said of the war to oust Saddam Hussein. "We feel like we can't tolerate someone like this."

Ross said there is no confusion within his congregation about the conflict.

"Our hopes are in the Lord, not in this world system," he said.

First Baptist Church's pastor, Brian Haynes, said his adult Sunday school class would dedicate the entire hour this Sunday to discussion on the war in Iraq.

"I said, 'Let's take a Sunday and let people talk about what's on their minds,'" he said. "People need to be able to talk about it in an environment where they can express their feelings."

The president has made his decision, Haynes said, and people need to support the troops and their

families.

Church is where they can deal with their confusion about what is occurring overseas, he said.

"It's difficult and complicated," he said. "It's hard to know what to think because we don't know everything about all that's going on. I sense that people just need a place and way to express their feelings."

People should continue to pray and turn to their faith during times of war, Haynes said.

"These are very interesting times in the world we live, and faith is important," he said.

Reverend Elizabeth Purdum, of St. Mark's Episcopal Church of Craig and the Lutheran Church of Grace, said her congregations have a listing of all the people in the military from their congregation, and said they pray for those soldiers and their families.

Open discussion of the situation is encouraged in her churches, she said.

"We always ask questions of why we do what we do," she said. "We try to respect everyone's opinion, and realize there are different ways of bringing about peace."

Sometimes following in the "righteousness of Jesus Christ" might involve taking action on someone who endangers and oppresses others, she said.

One thing people should be thankful for, she said, is that they have the right to view the war how they want.

"We should give thanks for the fact that people can express different opinions and speak freely with one another," she said.

Haynes said Thursday that he and a member of his congregation had a discussion recently about the changes they had seen in people from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to a commemorative service for the tragedy this past September.

"In the weeks following Sept. 11, people were sitting together in the front of church and seemed to be coming together more," he said. "A year later, people were back to how they were before."

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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