Ring of Remembrance
Churches pay tribute to lives lost in Iraq

By Annette Spence

Glenn Bush spent 12 months in Iraq as a tank crewmember for the National Guard, and during that time, he lost a dear friend. "He was a platoon sergeant, a God-fearing man. We all talk about him as if he is still alive," Bush said of his friend, Mark Edwards.

On June 25, Rock Springs United Methodist Church joined other churches, synagogues, and mosques in a national, weekend-long effort known as the "Ring of Remembrance."

Bush, who returned from Iraq last November, was asked by his pastor, the Rev. Joey Manis, to ring the Rock Springs bell before Sunday morning worship. Mark Edwards, of course, was in Bush's thoughts and prayers.

"It was a tone of remembrance, but also of joy - to celebrate all those who have done so much," Bush said.

At least 16 Holston churches joined in the Ring of Remembrance, memorializing both the American and Iraqi dead. The effort was organized by FaithfulAmerica. org, an online community of the National Council of Churches, and DemocracyRising. US, an organization founded by Ralph Nader. The United Methodist Board of Church and Society encouraged people of faith to be part of the effort.

The Ring of Remembrance was announced in Holston's weekly email newsletter, "News Briefs," on June 21. Churches were invited to write thecall@holston.org to report their participation.

At Lebanon Memorial UMC in Abingdon District, the bell chimed 2,501 times in remembrance of American troops that had died in the Iraq war to date.

"This war has touched our congregation in a deeply personal way with the loss of Lt. Donald Ryan McGlothlin, one of our own," the Rev. Mike Carter wrote. "We pray to God for all the innocent families, Iraqi and coalition forces, that the presence of God may still their grief and give them peace."

In Kingsport District, Kingsley UMC and Hermon UMC observed a minute of silent prayer on June 25, according to the Rev. Joel Campbell.

"Both churches rang their bells 25 times, once for every 100 soldiers who died," Campbell wrote. "Many people were moved to tears by the observance."

In Maryville District, Carpenters Campground UMC rang the bell for one minute on June 25. Bales Chapel UMC of Morristown District rang the bell during prayer time. Benton UMC of Cleveland District and St. Luke UMC of Chattanooga District chose to observe the moment on the following Sunday, July 2.

"We will be ringing our carillon to the neighborhood before the service and ringing handbells during the service," St. Luke's pastor, the Rev. Sherry Boles, wrote.

The U.S. government announced June 15 that 2,500 American troops had died in the Iraq War, according to United Methodist News Service. That same day, both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives began an intense debate over the conflict.

The Rev. Bob Edgar, a United Methodist pastor and the National Council of Church's chief executive, called the announcement of the 2,500th death "a tragedy that shouldn't have happened" and added that the "young men and women who paid the ultimate price of their government's call to arms will be mourned by everyone."

Vince Isner, director of FaithfulAmerica.org, told United Methodist News Service the war in Iraq has been too costly.

"In precious lives lost, both military and civilian, in dollars diverted away from programs that nourish personal growth and distinction, in broken covenants, and in shattered trust, this war has taken the best and the dearest we have and misspent it on the most misguided of ambitions," he said.

Other Holston churches participating in the Ring of Remembrance included: Meadowview and Pleasant View in Abingdon District, Mt. Vernon in Big Stone Gap District, Valley View in Johnson City District, Glen Alpine and Pactolus in Kingsport District, Bethel (Amherst) in Knoxville District, and Mt. Carmel in Morristown District.

United Methodist News Service contributed to this report.

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