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W.Va. church offers prayers for Littleton, Colo.

April 27, 1999

Prayer serviceBy BRYN MICKLE / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The congregation inside Winchester Avenue Christian Church looked toward a higher power Tuesday night in an attempt to cope with the aftermath of the deaths of 13 people last week at a Colorado high school.

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More than 50 people from area schools and churches offered prayers for those affected by the tragedy in Littleton, Colo., and asked for help in dealing with many of the same problems some feel led to the murderous rampage by two teenage students.

"We're searching for something and that's great. This horrendous tragedy can be the catalyst to heal wounds and keep future events from happening," said Bill Hoffman of Bunker Hill, W.Va.

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While those who came out for Tuesday's service represented 18 churches and nine schools from around the area, the vigil's organizer said he was surprised there was not a larger attendance.

"As deeply as what happened touched people, I expected more people to come out," said Rev. Doug Hollida, pastor of Winchester Avenue Christian Church.

Hollida, however, was not disappointed.

"The prayers went beyond my expectations with their power and depth. There was a lot of God's love in this room tonight," Hollida said.

The hour-long service included hymns, as well as prayers offered from the congregation.

Speaking in voices that at times verged tears, people prayed for youth and asked for forgiveness. Other prayers asked for help in dealing with issues of racism, hate and the growing problem of violence in American society.

"I'm here to give thanks for what we have and pray this type of thing doesn't ever happen in our community or anyone else's community," said Martinsburg City Councilman George Karos.

A mixed group of Winchester church members and non-members attended the service, with several parents bringing their children to the vigil.

Genevieve Hedges of Martinsburg said she was thankful for the opportunity to open her church to the community.

"Prayer really does help and worldwide prayer will help the situation in our schools and communities," Hedges said.

Hollida said he hoped Tuesday's service would serve as a kind of memorial service that will help the community move beyond the events in Littleton, but added he expects the memory to linger.

"I think I'll still have those fears when my children leave for school," Hollida said. "I didn't have those fears before this happened. I know this will spur me to try and do more to address the issues that helped this tragedy happen."

The Littleton community will be given a permanent record of the Martinsburg vigil when the church sends them a guest register from the service, along with a letter of support.

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