Cape and Island Churches Embrace Weary, Worried Voters

Prayer services offered to support new president, unite nation.

Posted November 4, 2016

HYANNIS — As one of the most divisive and controversial presidential elections in American history comes to a close, many Cape and Islands churches hope to provide spiritual support for voters and an opportunity to offer prayers for the nation.

“We feel as Christians we need to work for common ground with people we disagree with for the good of the country,” said the Rev. Bruce Epperly, pastor of South Congregational Church, U.C.C., in Centerville. “Regardless of who is president, we need to pray for that person and the welfare of our country and planet.”

Citing polarization — including dissolved friendships and threats of violence — brought on by the election cycle, Epperly’s church will hold a nonpartisan election eve prayer service Monday.

And after the election, Epperly will be joined Thursday night by the pastors of Osterville United Methodist Church and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Osterville in leading an Ecumenical Post-Election Service of Unity and Reconciliation.

“Regardless of our individual preferences, the next president will need spiritual support to achieve basic justice and well-being for our nation,” added Epperly.

Waquoit Congregational Church in East Falmouth will be open during polling hours, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., on Election Day to allow the public, regardless of faith or party affiliation, to come in to light a candle or pray with others.

“We are emphasizing unity, because we are all in this together regardless of the outcome” said the Rev. Nell Fields, noting that churches are sanctuaries and safe places, especially for people who are afraid.

The church hall at Waquoit is also a Falmouth polling place. At all times during the day, members of the congregation will be outside the hall reaching across party and religious lines to offer free hugs to any voter who would like one.

“We have been hearing a very negative narrative of our lives and our country and we need to counter that,” Fields said. “There is hope and we are good. At the end of the day we all want what’s best for our country.”

The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts has called for a vigil period of intense prayer from noon Sunday though noon on Election Day. Many Episcopal congregations on the Cape and Islands are heeding the call.

St. Paul’s Church on Nantucket will conduct a 24-hour prayer vigil from 7 p.m. Monday to 7 p.m. Tuesday. St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sandwich, in conjunction with the First Church of Sandwich, will hold an election vigil service at 7 p.m. Monday.

In addition, St. Peter’s-on-the-Canal Church in Buzzards Bay will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday for prayer and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Edgartown will be open for prayer and meditation from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Election Day.

The Episcopal bishops of Massachusetts and Western Massachusetts have issued the following message to those participating in election vigils and services:

“We must pray that God be at work in our electoral process. We must pray for a peaceful transition, no matter the outcome of our elections. We must pray that the demonization of one another’s opponents which has characterized this election not be further stoked by its outcome. We must pray that all those elected on that day be moved, strengthened and guided by the Spirit, to lead us through fractious and dangerous times. We must pray in gratitude for those who, with sacrifice and noble intent, step up to lead our common life.”

St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in East Falmouth will dedicate its Monday Holy Hour from 6 to 7 p.m. to prayer for the election, according to John Kearns, director of communications for the Diocese of Fall River. He also expects parishes to offer prayers and intentions for the election at Masses through Tuesday.

The Federated Church of Orleans will hold a lunchtime prayer service at noon on Election Day.

“It’s a threshold time for our country,” said the Rev. Sally Norris, church pastor. “People are afraid, anxious and depressed. We need to gather in community to support each other and love each other in spite of all the rhetoric. We need to call upon something greater than ourselves. We will be praying for healing in the nation.”

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, shortly before the polls close, Dennis Union Church will hold a reflective Election Day Communion service.

Rabbi David Freelund of Cape Cod Synagogue in Hyannis said his congregation had no election-related services planned, but he could understand why there was such a need.

“I think it’s very frustrating to see what’s going on,” he said. “Many of the underpinnings of what we assume to be the American ethos have eroded.”

Follow Geoff Spillane on Twitter: @GSpillaneCCT.