Outside, thousands are demonstrating against abortion. Inside, congressional employes rush about the corridors, preoccupied with the issues of the day.
But quietly, in one Longworth Building conference room, six workers join hands and form a circle. With heads bowed and the problems of the day temporarily forgotten, they pray.
They ask that sick friends get well, that job problems disappear, that a son-in-law opts against divorce, that things work out with a new boyfriend or that another member of the group gets a raise. They knew about each other's problems, nodding their heads as names and problems are mentioned. Sometimes they reply, "Praise the Lord" or "Thank you, Jesus."
At least a dozen weekly lunchtime Bible study groups and prayer meetings have sprung up on Capitol Hill over the last few years. The meetings supplement weekly prayer breakfasts and monthly luncheons and prayer meetings that some members of Congress attend.
The Bible study groups are informal, usually attracting anywhere from two to 10 people at a time from a pool of about 100 participants.
Their organization is also informal. Most groups don't know that other groups exist, and most are organzied without the help -- or knowledge -- of the chaplains of the House and Senate.
The groups study chapters of the Bible or themes developed by their leaders. But those who do attend -- mostly low-level Hill employes and more women than men -- seem to get as much psycological help from the sessions as they do spiritual.
One woman learns how to let her young daughter know she loves her, another wonders if she comes off as "too saintly" to her friends, and another tells how she will "retain her sanity" now that she is working fewer hours.
Marsha Collins, 29, a computer operator in the office of Rep. Eldon Rudd's (R-Ariz.), attends at least two Bible studies a week. "During the week in this kind of place, when everybody centers on their own troubles and is trying to step over you -- those Bible studies really help," she said.
Ann Pissot, 35, attends a Tuesday session where she said she finds "camaraderie, warmth and real friendship," qualities she said are usually missing in working relationships on Captiol Hill. Pissot, a secretary and computer operator in the office of Rep. Andrew Maguire (D-N.J.), has been attending her group for two months.
"It's a nice thing to do at lunch," said John Dziduch, 25, a receiving clerk at the Longworth Building. "Praying with friends and talking about the word of the Father makes a great break in your day."
The leader of Dziduch's Wednesday group, Walter Straughn, Believes in faith healing and the power of prayer. In fact, Straughn said it was through the efforts of "born-again Christians" like himself that President Carter was "prayed into office."
"I can't understand why people can't see that. He [Carter] had no more business being president than the man on the moon," said Straughn, an electrician in the Longworth and Cannon office buildings.
Some group leaders resent that word of their Bible studies is so slow in spreading. "We've had people tell us they were looking for a Bible study group to join, only to be told by one of the chaplains that no such groups existed," said Polly Medlin, another group leader.
At least two of the Bible study groups are organized by the Christian Embassy, a Protestant evangelical group that stepped up efforts in Washington five years ago to evangelize high government officials. But a spokesman for the embassy would give no further details on the embassy's role with the groups.
Most of the gatherings, however, are much less structured. Fran Troxler, a part-time member of the staff of Rep. David R. Bowen (D-Miss.), started going to the only Bible group she knew of five years ago, a group of 40 to 50 women in their thirties and forties. But that group, she said, experienced a nearly complete turnover two years ago when it split into three smaller groups meeting in more convenient locations.
Since then, she said, the groups have changed a lot. Now the average age is in the early thirties and the smaller groups make the sessions more productive.