Churches Provide Comfort During War

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With the country fully engaged in war in the Middle East, local houses of worship are tailoring their sermons to bring some comfort to parishioners during a time of uncertainty.

Pastor Mark Chamberlin of the First Southern Baptist Church set aside a special time for prayer.

"We stopped and had a directed time of prayer for peace and prayed for American troops and the Iraqi people," Chamberlin said. "We also recognized members of the church who had loved ones serving in the Middle East."

Chamberlin, a veteran during the Vietnam era, understands the anxiety that war can bring.

"I get very emotional when I talk about it," Chamberlin said.

Father Joseph Krause of St. Philip's Catholic Church said his sermon, like many others, focused on the season of Lent, but reserved time for prayer.

"As part of the Mass, our congregation prayed for peace in the world," Krause said. "We also prayed for the men and women serving, and those who have died."

Pastor Mel Munchinsky of the United Methodist Church continued his series on the Lord's Prayer which he believes is relevant to the conflict in Iraq. The title of the sermon was "A Harmony of Wills."

"There is a frustration of wills in our world," Munchinsky said. "Sometimes our will and God's will aren't the same and we pray that the Lord's will prevails."

Quoting from his sermon, Munchinsky said, "Gracious Lord, we have also come to ask for your protection for those who are being sent to faraway places to prepare for our defense.... We look forward to a day when no community will ever be asked to release its loved ones for the purposes of war. But today, history and circumstances force us to release them into your care and into our country's service. We pray for their safe return."

At the beginning of the service at the Community Presbyterian church, Pastor Chuck Proudfoot allows his congregation to share personal concerns.

"The war was brought up then," Proudfoot said. "We have members of the congregation that have grandchildren on the front lines."

During the prayer time, Proudfoot shared his personal wish.

"I prayed for the armies, both of the United States and Iraq, and that God's peace may come and hostilities cease," Proudfoot said.

Fred Hollabaugh, president of the Payson Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said they aren't doing anything different during services since the start of the war.

"Our members give talks that focus on the gospel," Hollabaugh said. "We focus on keeping the family strong and not on politics, but the gospel helps us deal with whatever is going on in our lives."

The theme of the sermon at Payson First Assembly of God given by Pastor Robert Rocca, was "faithfulness." Church Secretary Karen Bell quoted a portion of the sermon,

"When we are faithful to God, he is to us and our nation," she said.

Bell said that the members prayed for the troops and President Bush.

Pastor Steve Cook of Payson Christian Church stuck to the topic he had planned months ago -- joy.

"I discussed how it is that we, ourselves, can be joyful in the midst of turmoil, conflict and loss," Cook said. "Despite our circumstances, we can rejoice when we focus on Jesus Christ and what he has done for us."

Interim Pastor Ed Blair at Mount Cross Lutheran Church, lead a prayer for those in the Middle East.

"We prayed for God to protect those who are protecting us," Blair said. "And for God to protect the innocent civilians of Iraq."

Studies show a rise in church attendance since Sept. 11, and with the onset of war, people continue seeking solace and comfort within their chosen place of worship. As evidenced by the words of local church leaders, many prayers were said in Payson over the weekend.

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