AT News Team, October 3, 2013
Wednesday night at Capitol Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church, within blocks of the deadlocked United States Congress, Adventists and their neighbors came together to pray for an end to the government shutdown stalemate. The prayer meeting was covered by WJLA Channel 7, the ABC television outlet in the nation's capital.
"Tonight, there are large numbers of employees who are home, not because they choose to be, Lord, but because they were shut out," the TV reporter heard as part of the prayers. Pastor Gene Donaldson stated that the shutdown is affecting many of his members, and he prayed for compromise among the members of congress. "We believe that a spirit of unity must prevail," the pastor said. "Lord, we pray for all of those who are looking at mortgage payments today."
"You're really being told that you're not worth it, that it doesn't make any difference whether you come to work or not, … and that's what hurts," the news report quoted Dr. Johari Rashad, a furloughed 37-year-old federal employee with the Office of Personnel Management who was part of the prayer meeting. The question on the mind of most of those at church was, How long will this last?
Journalists in Washington generally agree that it is very unlikely the impasse will be resolved this week. "I think we're going to see a lot more jockeying, a bit more posturing, but actually reaching a conclusion? I have a hard time seeing that right now," the television station quoted Darren Samuelsohn of Politico.
Steve Hopkins, an EPA employee at the prayer meeting, said the situation is very frustrating because he has already had unpaid days off due to budget cuts. It amounts to wage reductions for the families involved. "You cut back as much as you can cut back, and then you try to cut back a little further in case it happens next week too," he was quoted by the news report.
Hopkins stated that there are some good people he knows who are leaving government employment because of how they are being treated. "When a good job opportunity comes along that pays quite a bit more than the federal government, they say, 'Why should I put up with this?'"
The congregation has 604 members, many of them young adults who work in government and related nonprofit organizations, the news media, etc. The church building is packed on Sabbaths and includes large numbers of visitors, out-of-town tourists and new arrivals from across the country. It is located seven blocks due east of the Capitol building where Congress meets and the Supreme Court building. It is affiliated with the denomination's Allegheny East Conference which stretches from Newark, New Jersey, to south of Richmond, Virginia, along the Atlantic Coast and inland into the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains and includes many historically African American congregations as well as some with no ethnic majority and Hispanic, Korean, West Indian and other immigrant churches.