(Photo: AP Images / Dave Martin)
With a third of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico now closed to fishing and leaked oil continuing to spread, local churches are banding together Sunday for a day of prayer.
They're calling it the Oil Spill Day of Prayer and participants include The Wesleyan Church, the Church of Nazarene and Southern Baptists.
"The current oil spill is not only causing harm to the coast, marsh lands, the gulf and the future of oil exploration but to the economic future of many [states]," said Dr. Dan Berry, the South Coastal district superintendent of The Wesleyan Church. "This is a case of denominations coming together, saying we are desperate."
Some 23 million to 47 million gallons of oil have spilled into the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded April 20 and sank. It is the worst oil leak in U.S. history.
President Obama vowed to stand with the people of the Gulf Coast and deliver a strong response to the man-made disaster.
In his weekly address Saturday, Obama spoke from Grand Isle, La., and informed the American public that 17,000 national guard troops were being deployed to aid in the response, more than 20,000 people are working around the clock to protect the waters and coastlines, hundreds of top scientists and engineers from around the world have been employed and more than 1,900 vessels are assisting in the cleanup. Additionally, more than 4.3 million feet of boom have been deployed to contain the spill.
"In short, this is the largest response to an environmental disaster of its kind in the history of the country," Obama said.
After speaking with frustrated local residents and small business owners including those in the oyster and shrimp industry, Obama said the spill has damaged livelihoods and upended whole communities.
"The fury people feel is not just about the money they've lost. They've been through tough times before," he noted. "It's about the wrenching recognition that this time their lives may never be the same. These folks work hard ... But now because of a man-made catastrophe, one that's not their fault and beyond their control, their lives have been thrown into turmoil. It's brutally unfair; it's wrong."
BP placed a cap over the well on Thursday and reported that it is making some progress in collecting the oil.
Nevertheless, the leak is steadily creeping to Florida's beaches and the Gulf Coast states still have a massive cleanup effort ahead of them.
Churches see prayer as their only hope.
"Men have tried for weeks to stop the flow of oil and to date, all has failed," Berry noted. "We need to call on God to stop the flow now. Our God stopped the flow of water for Israel to cross the Red Sea and He can cease the flow from this ruptured well."