Shutdown Talk Permeates Watch Night Services

Watch Night services are a religious tradition for people of many faiths dating back centuries. But this week, whether it was New Year’s Eve or Jan. 1, clergy and faith leaders dedicated extra time for services and prayer for federal workers caught in the crossfire between President Donald Trump and Congressional Democrats.

Rev. Henry P. Davis, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Highland Park, said that his Landover congregation started holding special prayers the Sunday after the shutdown because about 25 percent of his 3,500 members work for the federal government.

“We are trying to give people hope and to put our trust in God and not man,” Davis said. “This is a challenging time. We ask people affected by the shutdown to come forward for prayer and I think that was an eye-opening experience for our church.”

Rev. Ianther Mills, pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in Northwest, said that her congregation’s New Year’s service featured three ministers that focused on the past, present and the future of the congregation and issues that people are dealing with at this time.

“I am speaking about forgiveness and serving a God who knows us by our name,” Mills said. “We are praying for reconciliation and a way forward in this time and in our political climate because what is happening to folks economically.”

Rev. L.K. Floyd, 32, president of the Missionary Baptist Ministers Conference of Washington DC and the Vicinity, was invited to preach Dec. 30 in New York City, where his message was titled “Shifting Up.”

“When it comes to the government shut down God wants to shift up,” said Floyd, pastor of Heart Changers Baptist Church in Silver Springs. “Although there is a government shutdown there is an opportunity for different options and prayer for our national leadership. The country cannot be run like a business, the country must be run like a nation. We have a president in the White House who is focused more on business than people.”

“It is time to shift gears in your finance, in your spiritual life, in your ministry and I am encouraging people to start a business, operate in excellence and be good stewards to over their lives,” Floyd said. “My own personal prayer is to see more programs for the homeless and youth in the community and to see the church leave the four walls and become more actively engaged with the everyday person.”

Rev. Graylan Hagler, pastor of the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in the District, also had Trump on his mind.

“My New Years in my sermon was titled, “It Will Come Out in the Wash,'” Hagler said. “We are in an evil context. It is not even right versus left, it is evil and unless we work things out in short order the country will become a mighty country of the past.”

But despite the situation, Davis said members of his congregation are not losing heart.

“I hear from our congregation a sense of hope. We believe that God sees through all situations and our overall theme in 2019 is to continue to focus on our faith. The Bible says without faith, it is impossible to please God. We want to share our focus, our faith and to live out our faith.”

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Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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