NEW YORK, Nov. 12 (AP)--From the pulpit to the pews, ministers and parishioners pondered America's odd presidential quandary Sunday and expressed hope that something--be it prayer, politics or public pressure--would point the way for the nation.

"Prayer for this situation is certainly needed," said the Rev. Marty Boller, pastor of the Father's House Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

In a country where the government and religion have an uneasy but sometimes unbreakable relationship, Sunday offered a moment for churchgoers to consider the meaning of both--and, in some cases, reiterate the motto on the coins: In God We Trust.

"In this case, God doesn't play favorites," said the Rev. Randy Kasch of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Cedar Rapids. He described good government as a gift from heaven.

Some ministers, like the Rev. Leonard Jackson of First African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest black congregation in Los Angeles, asked people to pray. Others alluded to the brouhaha indirectly. But it was certainly on people's minds: In North Dakota, the Rev. Don Burnett of the Bismarck Baptist Church said some in his congregation "felt quite undone."

"Several ladies were just in tears in the lobby and concerned for the vulnerability of our country," he said. "We prayed as the scriptures have commanded us: Pray for those in authority over us."

A Newsweek poll suggests Americans favor a fair and accurate outcome to simply a speedy one. The poll, conducted Thursday and Friday, showed 72 percent of those interviewed felt it was more important to make certain "all reasonable doubt" has been removed; 25 percent wanted it resolved as soon as possible.

The poll said 69 percent of Americans consider the uncertainty a sign of the American political system's strength, while 24 percent said it was a sign of weakness. The poll had a 4 percentage-point margin of error.

At the Discovery United Methodist Church in the largely Republican western suburbs of Richmond, Va., the Rev. Jim Lavender called in his prayer "for someone bigger than politics--for you, Lord, to bring a peace across America."

And from one of his parishioners came this assessment: "If we can't even decide who we're going to put in for president, we're showing ourselves to be not deserved of the position we have in this world," said Doug Brandmahl, a carpenter.

The Rev. Chuck Smith, founder of the evangelical Calvary chapels, said at his flagship church in Costa Mesa, Calif., that the tight election is a symptom of a moral "free-fall" in the United States.

"It used to be that we had moral absolutes. We knew what was right, we knew what was wrong," he said between services Sunday. Smith said he was annoyed by the limbo but would accept the outcome because "it is God who sets upon the thrones those whom he would...he has a purpose for doing so."

The Rev. John Gibson Jr. told parishioners at Church of the Holy Cross, in downtown Raleigh, N.C., that God knows when to deploy the faithful.

"Usually, we believe that little voice of insignificant people like you and me can't make any difference. We may believe the movers and shakers and the powerful can make a difference," Gibson said, "but I would say that He can use us best when we realize how small we are."

On the south side of Chicago, the Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina's Roman Catholic Church said he was "tired of this garbage talk that it's expedient that we do this quickly."

"We've been doing things quickly for too long," Pfleger said to wild cheers. "Is speed more important than truth? Is speed more important than justice? Is speed more important than democracy? An entire Democratic process right at this moment is on trial."

Said one of his parishioners, Dolores Johnson, 70, a retired teacher: "This is the worst situation I've ever heard of in our history of elections."

Many parishioners, while not always putting the situation in the context of religion, had strong opinions as well:

  • From Richard Howard of San Diego, attending the First United Methodist Church in Phoenix: "They ought to declare a winner and move on."
  • From Marvin Moss, 63, at All Saints of North America Russian Orthodox Church in Middlebrook, Va.: "The system is working. Democracy always is a messy process. The president should not be decided by a court."
  • From Sean J. Bellew, 28, a lawyer attending services at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, home of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia: "Somebody has to blink. Both deserve it and both don't deserve it. I would hope that each of them would be gentleman enough to say what's best for the country."
  • At the Lord of Lutheran Church in Bismarck, N.D., member Larry Kleingartner gave a prayer, expressing thanks that there are no "riots in the street and no tanks in the street at a time where there is obviously some political instability."
  • He added: "We're thankful for our Founding Fathers, who gave us laws that we are going to follow and that laws will prevail and not chaos."

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