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Vicki Maturo, of Culver City, Calif., protests against the government shutdown which started a day earlier, outside the federal building in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The regular book study group at the Rev. Tim Ahrens’ church in middle America always ends with a prayer — most deeply personal, often about a family or friend’s illness. But after one recent meeting, the members held hands in a circle and turned to something far different.

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