NEW YORK - As violence continues across the Middle East and the United States considers pre-emptive strikes against Iraq, the million-member United Methodist Women's organization is taking up arms in prayer.
The group's new prayer campaign, "Christian Women Pray for Peace from Advent to Easter," grew from a suggestion by a Washington state member who wrote to the Women's Division of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries in November. The division has administrative responsibility for United Methodist Women.
"Imagine if the world heard that the churches in the United States cared enough to pray that there will be no war," she wrote. "We could revolutionize the way some other countries look at America."
Plans for the prayer campaign emerged after a brainstorming session of United Methodist Women conference leaders and staff at a training event in St. Louis.
Across the United States, women are being asked to:
- Write a prayer for peace on a postcard some time between Advent and Easter and mail it to the Service Center, General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church, 7820 Reading Road, Caller No. 1800, Cincinnati, OH 45222-1800.
- Designate a day for prayer or form a 24-hour prayer chain in each church, asking members to sign up for one hour when they will pray for peace.
- Hold prayer meetings for peace in local, district and conference United Methodist Women groups and encourage women of other denominations to do the same.
- Collect prayer postcards in "prayer boxes" stationed in public gathering places, such as stores, restaurants and churches, and send all postcards to the Service Center.
On Easter weekend, the Women's Division plans a demonstration for peace in Washington. Church executives expect to deliver thousands of prayers for peace on postcards to the White House.
A Web site, http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/prayers4peace.html, is being developed for the campaign. Ongoing news, advocacy efforts and prayers for peace will be posted there.
Lois Dauway, a Women's Division executive, reminded church members of the urgency for prayer and the fact that no prayer is too small.
"God hears our prayers," she said. "If each of us takes the time to pray for the leaders and decision makers of the United States and countries suffering from instability ... and if we take time to pray for the people in these countries who are neglected, ignored and forgotten ... then our prayers will not be ignored. Our small prayers become large prayers and voices that are heard around the world. We must pray without ceasing."
The campaign is part of an ongoing effort by United Methodist Women to work for peace in the world. In October, Women's Division directors adopted a statement opposing a U.S. unilateral strike against Iraq.
"The Women's Division reaffirms its opposition to war as the instrument for resolving the continuing conflict with Iraq; presses for lifting the sanctions against Iraq; and urges all governments, most particularly the United States and the Security Council of the United Nations, to pursue peaceful means in resolving conflicts with Iraq," the statement said.
United Methodist Women also has been working closely with Churches for Middle East Peace, circulating a petition titled, "A Christian Call for Peace." Last July, Women's Division directors joined the organization in calling on Congress and the Senate to increase U.S. funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which is primarily responsible for providing schools, health care and essential humanitarian services to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza.
By Kelly Martini