VALDOSTA -- As churchgoers filtered into Valdosta churches Wednesday under gray, tearful skies, the differing denominations were unified with a common prayer in the wake of a national tragedy.

First United Methodist Church on Patterson Street hosted worshipers from several churches and Valdosta's synagogue, Temple Israel, in a somber prayer service sponsored by the Valdosta Area Ministerial Association.

Nearly 100 Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans and Jews joined together to contemplate Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that possibly killed thousands.

"We've all been numbed by this experience, and to be able to come together and find strength from each other is so important," said Dr. Wayne Mosely, shortly before the service began.

The service opened with a singing of the hymn, "How Firm a Foundation," written in the 18th century and set to a 19th century American melody:

"When through the deep waters I call thee to go/ the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;/ for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to the thy deepest distress," reads the third verse.

The worshipers read prayers in unison, praying for the nation, the injured, leaders of government and the military, enemies, and for peace.

"This gave every person the opportunity to pray those deep needs and concerns," said Mosely, explaining it is important to vocalize those needs to God as a group.

One pastor commented the prayer of forgiveness was "the most difficult prayer of all," and Mosely said he thinks forgiveness will be a topic in many churches Sunday.

"There's a whole lot of anger, and I think pastors included are struggling with that," said Mosely. "I think that's part of the American experience today."

At the end of Wednesday's service, worshipers quietly walked to the altar of the church, where young and old alike knelt for one last contemplative prayer, some with arms around the shoulders of their neighbors.

Outside, one group of Presbyterian students from Valdosta State University contemplated the meaningfulness of Wednesday's service.

"I just came out to pray and give my support to all who are hurting and in need of support today," said Brett Williams, "I think it's been the topic at Bible studies and church services throughout the country."

Another student, Kelly Doeck, said she feels it is important for people to gather in times of trouble and tragedy.

"They need to express their feelings and not suppress their anger, and realize even though this happened in New York, everyone is a part of it," she said.

To contact reporter Peter Failor, please call 244-3400, ext. 247.

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