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Prayer part of school preparation

August 24, 1998|By DON AINES

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - With schools in Franklin County, Pa., set to open Wednesday, students, parents and teachers are finishing up vacations, doing some last-minute shopping and getting ready to hit the books.

In Waynesboro on Sunday, they were reading from the Good Book and praying for the upcoming school year.

"My main focus in life, my main goal in life, is to live for the Lord," said Heidi Marks, 17, the senior class president at Waynesboro Area Senior High School. She and more than 100 other people filled a room at the Waynesboro YMCA for the back-to-school prayer service.

"This is the best way I've ever started a school year," Marks told those at the service.

Sherry Cline said she and others felt moved to organize the service, "in light of all the school violence, the racial tensions and, locally, the infiltration of heroin."

"We hope for this to become an annual event and spread to other communities," said Cline, abstinence coordinator for Pregnancy Ministries Inc.

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"I think our kids and our teachers need to be bathed in prayer," said Stacy Mowen, a local prayer leader for Moms In Touch. With 30,000 groups internationally, Moms In Touch meets weekly to pray for children and schools, she said.

Other sponsors from the area included the YMCA, the Biblical Education Center, Camp Joy El, the Waynesboro Area Senior High School Bible Club, the Waynesboro Ministerium and the Solid Rock Cafe, a Christian youth center.

Representatives from those groups and local churches read from the Bible and led the service in prayers on subjects including the safety of students, drugs and alcohol, violence and racial tensions.

"The equivalent of one full classroom of children is killed every two days," the Rev. Dwan Newsome of the Calvary Assembly of God Church said of violence in schools. He listed school shootings in Paducah, Ky., and Jonesboro, Ark., and noted that murder is the third leading cause of death for middle and high school-aged students.

"We thank You that, up to now You have graced us," Newsome said in his prayer against violence.

Ken Shannon, a history and government teacher at Waynesboro High, prayed that teachers will be moral examples to their students. He also prayed that teachers will be able to teach that "there are moral absolutes."

Shannon asked that teachers be able to instruct students about religion in a "constitutionally appropriate manner ... that the Christian faith receive a fair hearing in the schools, that it not be ignored, slighted or deemed irrelevant."

Cline said organizing the event began in late July and "It just flowed."

"Next year we're going to need the gym," Cline said, noting the response to the service.

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