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Local couple offers prayers to Assembly

March 31, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

by Joe Crocetta / staff photographer

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Assemble prayer

ANNAPOLIS - They admitted to being a little nervous, but speaking before large audiences is nothing new for the Rev. Anne O. Weatherholt and the Rev. F. Allan Weatherholt Jr.

On Monday evening the Weatherholts, rectors at two Washington County Episcopal churches, were the centerpieces of a legislative rarity. The "clergy couple" offered the prayers that opened the sessions in the General Assembly's two houses. She was in the Senate. He was in the House of Delegates.

"It's really exciting," said Anne Weatherholt, 44, rector at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Lappans.

"It is a thrill and an honor," said Allan Weatherholt, 48, rector at St. Thomas' Episcopal Parish in Hancock.

An official with the state archives said it is impossible to determine whether a husband-and-wife team ever offered the prayer in the two houses on the same day.

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Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said he cannot recall that happening in the 23 years he has served in the legislature.

"To the best of our knowledge, you've seen some history being made here tonight," Munson said on the Senate floor.

The Weatherholts said when Munson's office approached them about a month ago to offer the dual prayers, they immediately accepted.

"We thought it would be fun and a nice honor," said Allan Weatherholt, who is chaplain for the Hagerstown barracks of the Maryland State Police.

The House of Delegates and Senate traditionally start their daily sessions with a prayer, a ceremony usually led by a clergy member who is a guest of a lawmaker. The prayers are supposed to be general in nature and not make references to a specific deity.

This year, however, controversy erupted as some lawmakers objected to prayers that made specific references and gave opinions on political matters. That prompted House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, to issue a set of guidelines to clergy invited to offer prayer.

Both Weatherholts kept well within the guidelines with prayers that asked for the lawmakers to perform their duties with wisdom, compassion and strength. They said it makes sense to offer a general prayer before a group of people with diverse religious backgrounds.

"It's important to keep in mind the constituency you are praying for," Anne Weatherholt said.

Each prayer was only about a minute long, and they said they were careful not to give "sermonettes" to the legislators.

"There's a difference between praying and preaching," Allan Weatherholt said.

"We're not here to preach to people," Anne Weatherholt said.

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