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Prayers before the storm? Gainesville rain services coincide with Gov. Perdues
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GAINESVILLE — Gainesville Mayor Bob Hamrick joined five local ministers in Roosevelt Square at lunchtime Tuesday to seek drought relief from one last governing authority — the Lord.

Clergy members read Scripture and asked the crowd of about 30 people to bow their heads and first ask for forgiveness from God, express gratitude for natural resources and then to ask Him for rain.

The prayer service was held in Gainesville at the same time as a prayer service called by Gov. Sonny Perdue at the state Capitol in Atlanta.

"The first thing we want to do today is to ask the Lord for forgiveness for the many occasions that we have not been taking care of ... God’s creation," said the Rev. Fabio Sotelo of St. Michael Catholic Church. "In many occasions we have not been responsible with our resources, so this is a time that probably the Lord put ... in our history to invite us to wake up and say, ‘What are we doing with the Earth?’

"We ask the Lord to forgive the many occasions we have failed, and we come together as one community of faith," Sotelo prayed. "We ask you, with humble hearts, to grant us rain."

Initiated by Perdue, the prayer services have motivated some protesters to speak out against the state’s sponsorship of a religious service. But there were no protesters at the service in Gainesville. In fact, some attendees called the service "wonderful," and said they are glad to see government officials acknowledge the role of a higher power in the state’s need for rain.

"It’s one thing that’s totally out of the power of our hands," said Dee Head, who attended the prayer ceremony. "(God) knows we need rain, but he wants us to acknowledge he is the giver of all things."

Rev. Dr. Terry Walton of Gainesville First United Methodist Church led the 30-minute long service and said that many people turn to God in difficult times when there seem to be no other alternatives.

"It’s times like these where God can get our attention like no other time," Walton said.

Rev. Dr. Marcus Dixon of St. Paul Church on Summit Street, said during the service that in addition to asking God for rain, he would like to give thanks to God for the peace in the United States and for the season of Thanksgiving.

"We know that you can let the rain come down in just a twinkling of the eye," Dixon prayed. "We have learned not to trust in the world’s riches, but to put our security in you."

Dixon recalled the Old Testament story of Moses asking God for water and then striking a rock and watching water pour out from the stone.

Dixon encouraged the small congregation to have faith that the rain will come and the drought will end.

Hamrick and the ministers collectively opened their umbrellas upon the ceremony’s conclusion.

"Lord, we give you thanks because we know that you’re going to do it. And so we have in confidence come before you today with our umbrellas in our hand, trusting and believing," Dixon prayed. "And so Father, let it rain, let it rain, let it rain, let it rain."