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Some gather, some pray for peace

March 20, 2003|By PEPPER BALLARD and MARLO BARNHART

pepperb@herald-mail.com
marlob@herald-mail.com

Just hours before the United States launched an attack on Iraq Wednesday night, members of the community took to the street and to churches to pray for peace.

When Pastor John Miller of Faith Christian Fellowship heard that Psalm 27 was being read to American troops in the Middle East, he decided to do the same at the Williamsport area church's 7 p.m. prayer meeting.

In Hagerstown's Public Square, members of the community held a prayer vigil.

Don Stevenson, senior minister of Christ's Reformed Church led about 75 people in the square in prayer beginning at 8 p.m., the hour U.S. President George Bush's 48-hour ultimatum to Saddam Hussein ran out.

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The group in the square included those of Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths. They lighted their candles and then separated to the four quadrants of the square to pray.

"The children of God are about to fight each other and we're concerned," Stevenson said.

"I came out here because I don't want war," said Sabih Haq, 12, of Smithsburg.

"I'm Muslim, and Islam preaches peace. We want to have peace."

Stevenson said that in the story of the Jews' exodus from Egypt, people were afraid and fearful for their lives.

"God gave them a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night that they might find their way to freedom and peace," he said.

Mohammed Latif, 46, of Hagerstown, praying in a cluster on one of the square's quadrants, said, "The clouds of war are looming on mankind. It's a very distressing moment for the world."

"It's encouraging to know that the word of God is circulating around the world," Miller told about 40 members and visitors who gathered to pray for peace in the Williamsport-area church.

Faith Christian's congregation was one of many who urged people to gather to pray.

Miller chose to use Psalm 27 because it urges those in peril to trust in God, saying, "Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident."

Eric Miller said he would pray to find the way to peace.

"And that is peace for everyone, all around the world," he said.

The pastor echoed that sentiment, saying people must put their faith and trust in the Lord.

"Our prayers need to be directed to our president, his advisors and the Iraqi people," Pastor Miller said. "But our faith is in the Lord."

Reed Ernst, 40, of Hagerstown, said he decided to take his family to the downtown prayer vigil out of support for members of the military.

"They're out there defending us whether it's right or wrong," he said.

Other area churches opened their doors to those who wanted to pray.

The Hagerstown Church of the Brethren, at Washington and Mulberry streets, was open from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Christ's Reformed Church at 130 W. Franklin St. in Hagerstown, will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. today and Friday for private prayers.

There will be noon prayers and worship services today and Friday at Christ's Reformed.

In Cavetown, Christ Reformed UCC will hold a special prayer service tonight at 7.

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