D.C. Mayor Marion Barry stood in the pulpit of First Rising Mount Zion Baptist Church Sunday and bowed his head as the Rev. Ernest R. Gibson led his congregation in a somewhat unorthodox prayer -- a prayer for the financial health of the District of Columbia.
"We beseech you to hear the fervent prayers . . . that the present threat to the quality of life and security of our community because of the budget crisis may be removed," said Gibson.
The congreation -- a sea of motion, as worshipers fanned themselves against the day's oppressive heat -- responded, "Amen."
"Guide . . . all our citizens and the members of the city government, the Congress and the White House as we seek a fair and just solution," Gibson prayed.
Gibson wrote the prayer and sent it to about 800 area churches, he said, as part of a weekend of prayer for the city sponsored by the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington and the Metropolitan Council of Churches. Gibson said he did not know how many churches used the prayer.
Barry, whose stop at the church in the Shaw neighborhood of Northwest Washington was his third of the day, asked parishioners for their support in solving the budget crisis.
"Spend a little time criticizing me," he said, "but then let's roll up our sleeves and see about finding some real solutions."
Speaking in a call-and-response style that left room for interjections of support by the congregation, Barry compared the city's situation to a shopper who reaches the check-out line of a grocery store with $140 worth of items but only $120 to spend.
"What do you do?" Barry asked. "You start putting things back . . . But you've got five children, and one of them says, 'No don't put the bread back.' . . . And another one says, 'No, don't put the meat back.' . . . But something's got to go."
In addition to sponsoring the weekend of prayer, the Interfaith Conference has suggesged that a White House task force on the District be reconvened. But city officials said last week that while they support the church group's efforts and while White House officials are being kept informed about the budget crisis, there are no plans for the task force to start up again.
Barry also visited St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church at 320 21st St. NE, where he clapped along with a gospel choir and heard the Rev. Thomas R. Frank tell worshipers that the mayor "knows about trials and tribulations."
Barry also visited St. Luke's Episcopal Church at 15th and Church Sts. NW, where a white-robed choir performed works by Franz Shcubert.
Barry told the Episcopal congregation that city government employes and other Washington residents would have to make sacrifices for the budget crisis to be solved, and said Congress should "make up for [its] past sins." c
"I'm not at all downtrodden," Barry said of his current mood. "I'm uplifted."