BUXTON — A Buxton church has turned to candles and prayers to ease the anxieties and tensions of its congregation as the bitterly contentious presidential campaign raged around the members this fall.

On every Sunday since Sept. 11, the Rev. Dr. Cathy Genthner has lit what she calls a candle of peace at the North Congregational Church. Then the congregation reads a prayer for peace in unison.

“Prayer changes everything,” Genthner said.

On Sunday the 16 parishioners who showed up at the nearly 200-year-old white clapboard United Church of Christ in the Groveville section of town said the practice has helped ease their minds at a stressful time.

“I try to think of policy, not the people. I hope the checks and balances will prevail,” said Patsy Leavitt of Buxton.

Judy McGovern of Limington said she just wants to move on from the bitter politics of the campaign.

“I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Let’s just have peace,” McGovern said.

Church leaders have to be careful what they say to their flocks about political candidates and causes. A church can lose its tax-exempt status if it intervenes in political campaigns and elections. Pastors may urge their parishioners to vote but not endorse a candidate.

Genthner said her congregation may be small but it is enthusiastic and fiercely optimistic. The church is operating in the black and members work hard to keep the building, constructed in 1821, in pristine condition. The church recently restored its pipe organ.

The church’s monthly Saturday bean suppers draw crowds. Each Sunday service starts with a children’s sermon, even though there are no children who are members at the moment.

“We are praying” for children, Genthner said.

She said she has tried to keep her congregation’s can-do spirit alive during a very dispiriting political season. So she added a regular peace component to the Sunday service because she was disturbed by the rancor created by the presidential election campaign between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.

“I was born in 1960 and I have never seen our country in such a state of turmoil and in need of peace,” said Genthner, a former Maine television reporter.

Genthner used the Sunday before the Nov. 8 election to address the question “Who Should I Vote For?” She didn’t answer the question directly but instead sought to guide her congregation, using a little humor in the process.

“Are you tired of the election yet? It has been really, really rotten,” she said, eliciting some chuckles.

Then she told a joke about a busload of politicians who crash into a tree in the field of an old farmer. The farmer comes upon the crash, digs a hole and buries the politicians. A sheriff comes along and asks the farmer if the politicians were all dead when he buried them.

“Some of them said they weren’t, but you know politicians lie,” the farmer said.

In the end, Genthner urged her parishioners to be kind to others who hold opposing political opinions, to learn about the issues and pray before voting.

“When you go into that voting booth, you’ve got God with you,” she said.

The candle of peace and special prayers will continue at 9 a.m. next Sunday, five days after the election.

Genthner said they may be needed more than ever.

“Some people are going to be pretty upset, so we will light another candle of peace,” Genthner said.


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