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United Methodist Women read prayers for peace


NOTE: Photographs are available with this report.

By Joretta Purdue*

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Carol Borum, of the Baltimore-Washington Conference United Methodist Women, hands out a leaflet to a jogger by the Washington Monument, as part of a letter-reading vigil for peace. Borum and the jogger, who is in the military, discussed loved ones they each have in the Persian Gulf area. A UMNS photo by Melissa Lauber. Photo number 03-152, Accompanies UMNS #237, 4/22/03

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Lois Dauway (right), staff executive with the Women s Division of the Board of Global Ministries, assists Genie Bank, division president, as Bank reads the peace prayers of women and children from across the United States in Washington. Thousands of grass-roots prayers for peace are expected to be read during a weeklong vigil in front of the Washington Monument and White House. A UMNS photo by Melissa Lauber. Photo number 03-151, Accompanies UMNS #237, 4/22/03
WASHINGTON (UMNS) - By and large, the tourists gave wide berth to the small group of well-dressed women standing near the sidewalk at the edge of the Washington Monument grounds.

Using a megaphone, the women read prayers received from throughout the United States in a "Prayers for Peace" campaign. Women and children had submitted at least 15,000 prayers for the effort, organized by the Women's Division of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

The megaphone, however, was no match for a strong wind and heavy road noise from nearby Constitution Ave.

Genie Bank, president of the Women's Division, opened with a statement explaining Prayers for Peace.

"Today and this entire week, women from around the country stand before God, the United States government, and the world reading prayers for peace," she said. "The reading of these prayers is a witness to the faith and determination of United Methodist Women to work for peace in Iraq and the world."

Bank had come from her home in Lexington, Mich., to join with other women in reading the prayers. Their permit from the authorities stipulated 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. April 21-25, and among other things cautioned them not to point their megaphone at the White House.

Others who participated or planned to arrive later in the week included other officers and board members of the Women's Division and staff. Mee Sue Park, recording secretary of the Women's Division, flew in from Los Angles, and Lois Dauway, Women's Division assistant general secretary for Christian social responsibility, came down from the New York office on the first day. In addition UMW members - many of them from the local area - answered the call to help.

Fran Carlson traveled from Georgetown, Texas, because she wanted to be a part of the effort. She has been thinking and praying a lot about peace, she said, and needed to participate. "I have no intention of undermining the troops," she said. She added that her daughter-in-law's nephew was shipped out, but the family has no idea where he was sent.

"By my very existence, I somehow support a government that is bringing suffering on such a big scale," said Sara Lilly, an elementary schoolteacher from Brooklyn, N.Y. She explained that getting up in the morning to face her students has been hard because she knows other children are suffering as a result of the war in Iraq.

Prayer has been a strength and comfort for Lilly, a member of Park Slope United Methodist Church in Brooklyn. She and another UMW member had come from New York on Monday to join in the second day of reading. Previously, Lilly had participated in the Jan. 18 peace march in Washington and the Feb. 15 march in New York.

Carol Borum, a member of Asbury United Methodist Church in Annapolis, Md., and UMW conference social action mission coordinator, and Alveta S. Jones of Landover, Md., conference education and interpretation coordinator, joined in opening packets of prayers before going to the monument to read them.

While Borum was giving passersby leaflets describing the prayers for peace campaign, she struck up a conversation with a tall jogger wearing a sweatshirt that had ARMY printed across the front in large letters. He is military and his wife is serving in Kuwait, she told the others later. Borum, who had worked at Fort Meade, Md., said she was surprised at how much she and the jogger had in common. One of her nephews had been among the first troops to cross into Iraq, she said.

"I just pray that good comes out of it," she said of the war in Iraq. She voiced the concern that military personnel do not get enough support when they come back, particularly in making the adjustment to a peacetime life.

As Bank noted, many of the prayers "are prayers of military mothers and prayers for all mothers' children in the military."

Once the reading was under way, two UMW members from Smith Chapel United Methodist Church in Pisgah, Md., each took a turn reading and holding the large banner the women displayed. These two, Bridget Taylor and Kia Hicks, represent the newest generation of United Methodist Women. Taylor is just 20.

Many of the cards that were read bore simple messages:

"We pray world leaders will seek peace."

"God is our shelter and strength."

"Father God, I pray for peace for all, everywhere in the world."

"We pray that the common citizen would set aside narrow patriotism" and act for the whole earth.

Bank estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 prayers were received, and the women hope to read them all in the White House neighborhood. The Prayers for Peace campaign began with Advent and stretched through Lent. In some cases, women invited children's Sunday school classes to write prayers for the effort.

In addition, the Women's Division has maintained a Web site at, where many people have added their prayers.

"These prayers are as diverse as those women who sent them," Bank said. "Women wrote them in their own words, from the heart, and from their own understanding of what peace entails. And in reading these prayers aloud, these prayers are a witness of faith, of a belief in the Prince of Peace and in the power of prayer."

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*Purdue is United Methodist News Service's Washington news director.

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