By John McElhenny, and Wendy Davis, Globe Correspondents, 3/24/2003
Inside the Unitarian Universalist church, the war in Iraq dominated yesterday's service. White "peace candles" were given to all comers. The minister announced that donations were being accepted for an Iraq relief fund.
"It's not worship as usual here at the First Parish this morning," said the Rev. Katie Lee Crane during her sermon yesterday.
Following days of antiwar protests that clogged streets and landed hundreds of protesters in handcuffs, debate over the war in Iraq dominated in churches around Massachusetts and across the country yesterday.
At First Baptist Church in Henderson, Tenn., red and blue lights adorned the organ pipes. At the Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, parishioners displayed pictures of family members in the military next to a patch of desert sand.
In Boston, some Catholic parishioners at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross expressed support for the war, despite Pope John Paul II's consistent condemnation of it.
Alex Ihenetu said any questions about the morality of a war against Iraq were outweighed by the danger of Saddam Hussein using weapons of mass destruction.
"In this particular case, I think the US is fighting a just war," Ihenetu said.
At Community United Methodist Church in Brighton, a more antiwar view prevailed. Sixty parishioners sang "O' help us stand unswerving against war's bloody way," part of the hymn, "O' Young and Fearless Prophet."
"The entire service was about the war," said the Rev. Abraham Waya,pastor. The parishioners also prayed for a church member who had been called up to serve in the war. They said prayers for soldiers on both sides and for American and Iraqi civilians affected by the fighting.
"We pray for the mothers of American soldiers who wake up at 3 in the morning because of that dreaded phone call, and we pray for the children of Iraq who wake up at 3 in the morning because the cruise missiles are coming," said Waya, 42.
In Hamilton, Dorington Little, the pastor of First Congregational Church, said the war was deeply dividing Christians. "No matter what view we take," he said, "all of us are called to do the one thing that is the hardest thing of all, and that is to trust God to work his will."
President Bush is a member of the United Methodist Church, but Waya, the minister in Brighton, said that didn't sway his view.
"My responsibility as a Christian is to say, `I oppose war, period,"' Waya said. "Jesus loves the Iraqis, he loves Saddam Hussein, and he loves Osama bin Laden no more and no less than he loves George Bush and he loves me."