Parishioners in Indian Head send prayer beads to U.S. troops

By Sara Poynor
Maryland Independent
Thursday, October 22, 2009

Many Americans are praying for U.S. troops overseas. Some women from St. James Episcopal Church are helping Americans in the service say their own prayers.

Every other week, the group gathers to string prayer beads to send overseas.

A couple of years ago, one of the women at the Indian Head church saw the beads at a diocesan convention. I1n April, the church started its own prayer bead group, parishioner B.J. Creelman said.

"It's a group fellowship, and we really enjoy it," said Clare Phillips, group coordinator.

The church serves as a partner parish with On Beads of Prayer, an international nonprofit ministry that began at St. Alban's Parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington in 2006. The ministry has 17 participating parishes.

In a matter of months, the women of St. James have made hundreds of strings of prayer beads. "We are pretty prolific," Phillips said.

On Beads of Prayer will "send the beads to the chaplains [in the Middle East] and have them distribute them to any of the military people who are in need of that kind of guidance -- in need of having some way to connect to God or people who are in the military hospitals," Creelman said.

Since its founding, On Beads of Prayer has sent about 5,000 strings of beads to military personnel in the Middle East, mostly in Iraq. Didi Smith, the creator of On Beads of Prayer, said that she expects the ministry will shift more toward Afghanistan in the near future.

Jonathan McDonald, the organist and choir director at St. James, received a set of Anglican prayer beads from his former church, St. Stephen and the Incarnation Parish in Washington, before entering the Army in 2002.

He went on to serve six years as a broadcast journalist, reaching the rank of sergeant.

While in Iraq as a member of the 101st Airborne Division, McDonald said, he often carried the beads in his pocket, along with a rosary.

"I did research on the prayers and I was saying them on a regular basis," he said.

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