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Prayers help suppress rage for retribution

Church services tame the anger and outrage many people feel over Tuesday's deadly terrorist attacks.

By GREG HAMILTON, CARRIE JOHNSON and ALEX LEARY

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 15, 2001


photo
[Times photo: Steve Hasel]
Lora Hinkle kneels at the altar of Vineyard Christian Fellowship church in Inverness during the lunch hour on Friday. The church was one of several that marked Friday's Day of Prayer and Remembrance.
INVERNESS -- Laurie McLean sat in the last row of the church, her eyes closed in prayer for the victims of Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. while her thoughts were many miles away.

McLean, a fire inspector for Citrus County, was worried about fellow inspector Joe Holland, who doesn't know if his son is still alive.

"His son works on the stock exchange," McLean said, "and no one has heard from him. Joe and his family left to drive to New York to see what they can do."

Her eyes moistening with tears, she added, "And we haven't heard from him."

McLean was among nearly 30 people at a noon service at Vineyard Christian Fellowship church on U.S. 41 S on Friday, one of many churches throughout Citrus County that answered President Bush's call for a national day of prayer.

Before leading the congregation in a verse of Amazing Grace, senior pastor David Shirkey read from the scriptures and tried to make sense of the week's events.

"No matter how much I try, I can find no answer for the hatred and harm that has befallen our nation," he said. "Lord, show us how to defend our nation while still being able to walk upright before you."

Shirkey, an Army paratrooper from 1958-67, said later that as a young man, he was "trained to kill people."

"I've had flashbacks myself" to his years in the military, and thus his first reactions have been fury and thoughts of revenge. "I confess that anger has gripped me and those who have done this, I want to immediately dispose of," he said.

But as a minister now, his duties and attitudes have changed.

"I ask God to forgive me those thoughts," he said. "As one of God's undershepherds, we must help people with their grief and hope for a peaceful resolution."

* * *

At noon, a hush descended over the parishioners gathered at Calvary Bible Church of Inverness. There were no sermons, no hymns, just quiet reflection and, for some, silent tears.

About five congregants sat with their heads bowed as gospel music played softly over a loudspeaker. A slide of the Statue of Liberty was projected over the altar.

In the front pew, Ralph MacKinnon kept his hand pressed tightly against his forehead while his wife, Inez, wept quietly.

"Because there's such sadness and such a loss of life, it makes you feel it's just not right to be frivolous," said Mrs. MacKinnon, 69, after the noon service. "Now is the time to be thoughtful."

Steve Roddy, 47, said he was horrified by what he watched on television the day of the terrorist attack on New York and Washington, D.C. Over the week, his feelings of disbelief have changed to anger, and he said he was grateful for the chance to reflect.

"I think there's going to be very little silence in the world from here on out," Roddy said.

David Cannon, pastor of Calvary Bible, 5335 E Jasmine Lane, said the president's call for prayer prompted him to organize Friday's hourlong service.

"When our lives are going along and we think we're in control, we sort of forget about God," he said. "But when something like this happens, it shakes our roots and shows us how fragile our foundations are. That's when you turn to God."

* * *

At First Baptist Church in Crystal River, a noon memorial service opened with Lee Greenwood's God Bless The U.S.A., performed by Greg Myers, 41, of Homosassa. He then led the audience of 40 in God Bless America.

"I'm not going to pretend to be real spiritual at this point," Myers said. "I'll be honest with you, I have some anger inside. This is an evil deed."

Church members prayed aloud that the nation's collective emotion would not turn irrational. "Father, take the hate away," said Gloria Morrison, 65, of Homosassa. "Don't let us act like them," she said. "Don't let us reach out and hurt people."

Crystal River's new city manager, Phil Lilly, who is a part-time minister at the church, prayed that the nation's leaders will have wisdom as they engage in military action. "We know things will never be right again," he said of the nation's psyche.

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