Pause to pray

KAPAA — The doors of churches and spiritual centers on the island were open early Election Day, offering a chance to check in before checking the ballot boxes on Tuesday.

At 7 a.m., coffee and calmness welcomed visitors to The Center for Spiritual Living in Kapaa, where the Rev. Rita Andriello and the Rev. Patrick Feren provided a place to come and focus on the “highest outcome of the election.”

“We can’t expect peace from the outside world if we don’t have peace within ourselves,” Andriello said. “You don’t want to make big decisions out of fear, you want it to be in love, and here it’s a safe place where people can hold a consciousness of peace for the world.”

At Christ Memorial Episcopal Church in Kilauea, a steady stream of voters wandered through the sanctuary as well, venturing a prayer before hitting the polls.

“It’s great that they’re open because everyone is stressed about this election,” said Sylvia Woods, from Princeville, who dropped by Christ Memorial Episcopal Church about noon.

The Rev. Robin Taylor said that’s exactly why she decided to open the church on Tuesday until about 4 p.m.

Christ Memorial Episcopal Church usually doesn’t open during the week on a regular basis, but Taylor said it “seemed critical” to open on Election Day so people could drop in for a time of prayer, meditation or contemplation.

“After such a negative and challenging campaign season, we thought it important for people to have a place to come to pray before voting, or even afterwards,” Taylor said.

But it’s not just Decision 2016 that has believers falling to their knees; the pending transition of power is also driving people to seek a higher power.

“It is important to seek God’s guidance as we vote, and as we face the days ahead,” Taylor said. “We are to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every single human being. We pray to ask God to strengthen us to do all of these, during such unusual times in our country.”

Since the church is located just up the street from Kilauea School, where polling was taking place, Taylor said most of the people that filtered through came by to pray before voting.

And a good chunk of people came through earlier in the morning, on their way to work, though people showed up throughout the day.

“It’s wonderful to come in and take a moment,” Woods said.

Kauai Christian Fellowship’s South Campus also found a way to be involved in Election Day by hosting one of the polling places within its walls.

“We intentionally wanted to have the voting here at the church because people from both sides can step in and vote as Americans and then leave as Americans,” said Pastor Rick Bundschuh of Kauai Christian Fellowship.

For Christians, he explained, visiting a church to cast votes for leaders of the country is a reminder of a higher power.

At Christ Memorial Episcopal Church, those who didn’t have the words to express their feelings got a jump-start with printed-out prayers that could be modified at will.

“Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: guide the people of the United States and of Hawaii in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord,” the prayer said.

Those who needed a quiet place to say a prayer before casting their votes had the chance to make a quick stop by the sanctuary on the way to the poll booths.

“I think everyone ought a be praying a whole lot,” Bundschuh said. “At the best this (election) will be divisive, at the worst it’ll be disastrous.”

Praying for the children in America was also something that was on Taylor’s mind during Election Day.

“Anxiety about the election is high among the majority of adults in our country. But likewise are our children stressed. There has been an increase in bullying in the schools. Children have shown stress about issues of race, ethnicity, religion, and body image,” she said. “We also need to pray for our children.”

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