Churches, synagogues, temples' phones quiet for now
As the first full day of the United States' war against Iraq raged on, the phones were quiet at churches, synagogues and other religious centers across North County.
The offices were flooded with calls after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 and when the war began in Afghanistan two months later, but few people called seeking spiritual help Thursday.
"It's still very early," said David Kornberg, associate rabbi at Congregation Beth Am in Carmel Valley.
He added that he and other leaders have offered assistance to members who have family or friends serving in the Middle East.
Kornberg plans to assess the breadth of his congregation's needs at regular services tonight and Saturday morning. He said he expects attendance to increase, as it did after Sept. 11.
Lt. Cmdr. Ron Tomlin, a chaplain at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, said he hasn't gotten any calls other than regular run-of-the-mill inquiries.
Tomlin said the reaction is far smaller than Sept. 11, because people have known for months that a war could be coming.
In contrast, he said, the terrorist attacks "hit us with a jolt."
"It caught us off-guard," he added.
New Venture Christian Fellowship in Oceanside also hasn't gotten any calls from people with concerns about the war, said receptionist Sandra Hashimoto.
"I'm actually pretty surprised," Hashimoto said. "When something like this happens, we usually do get calls."
Dennis Keating, senior pastor at Emmanuel Faith Community Church in Escondido, said Thursday morning that he believes his church hasn't received an overwhelming amount of calls from parishioners because very little appears to have happened with the war.
"Information is pretty sketchy as to what is going on," Keating said.
Some religious groups have begun scheduling special prayer services and other ceremonies for Sunday, or said they plan to mention the war during their regular services this weekend.
The debate about whether to go to war has divided some congregations. The Rev. Lee Rosenthal of the Vista Buddhist Temple said he believes that is one reason why his temple members have not sought consolation or support.
"I, as a spiritual leader, try to not dwell on that at all, but to step around it so life goes on as usual for the kids' sake," Rosenthal said.
Another reason he hasn't had a lot of requests for guidance is that the Buddhist faith seeks inner peace and harmony, which is achieved by individual reflection, he said.
At First United Methodist Church in Escondido, Associate Pastor Earl Guy said his parishioners also have had opposing opinions about the war.
"We have people who have been active in peace demonstrations and people who have been supportive of (the United States' recent) efforts as well," Guy said. "We think the church is a good place for dialogue for people who have a variety of points of view."
Sandy Coleman, secretary of the Baha'i Faith of Escondido, said Thursday that she hasn't had any war-related calls and is waiting to see what people's needs will be. Members might need additional support if they have family in Iran or the Middle East, where Baha'i Faith began, Coleman said.
"I really don't know how it will begin to affect the lives of our individual members," she said. "It's something where we have to see how it develops for the individuals in our community."
Guy agreed. "In many ways, the personal impact of this hasn't taken shape yet," he said.
Contact staff writers Tanya Rodrigues at (760) 740-5420 or email@example.com and Cyndie Claypool de Neve at (760) 740-3511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some of the war-related services in North County:
6 p.m. Sunday, prayer service, Emmanuel Faith Community Church, 639 E. Felicita Ave. in Escondido.
7 p.m. Sunday, "Support Our Troops" service, Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, 4510 N. River Road in Oceanside.
Noon, Wednesdays starting March 26, prayer service, St. Anne's Episcopal Church , 701 West St. in Oceanside
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