Students, parents, teachers gather to pray in Pa.

August 23, 1999|By DON AINES

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - In the wake of school shootings in Colorado and other states in recent years, hundreds of students, parents and teachers gathered in Waynesboro, Greencastle and Chambersburg Sunday to ask God's help for the coming school year in Franklin County.

"We need to seek God as a first resource, not a last resort," said Sherry Cline, the coordinator for the Back to School Prayer Service. She said communities such as Columbine are open to prayer after tragedy strikes. While prayer may not prevent a similar tragedy, "It puts us in God's will," Cline said.

Waynesboro YMCA Executive Director Richard Marks estimated about 300 people were in attendance Sunday in the gymnasium. That was about three times the number who attended the first Back to School Prayer Service held last year in the YMCA's child care center, the only venue for the service at the time.

Cline said services at the Chambersburg YMCA and First Assembly of God Church in Greencastle drew several hundred more. She hopes to have services in each of the county's six school districts next year.


Cline said schools are preparing for the new year with heightened security measures, but, "We are in a spiritual battle where in the absence of God, evil runs amok."

At the service she read a poem that Darrell Scott, whose daughter Rachel was killed at Columbine, wrote and read before Congress after the shootings. "You regulated restrictive laws through legislative creed/And yet you failed to understand that God is what we need," Scott wrote.

"There was a much higher sense of urgency in view of what's happened across the country. What happened at Columbine could happen anywhere," Marks said, referring to the incident last spring in which two students killed a dozen students and a teacher before taking their own lives.

"If you touch one kid's life at the right moment, you can turn their life around," he said.

Sponsored by a number of area churches, ministries such as Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Moms in Touch and high school Bible clubs, much of the service was led by students, Cline said.

She said students were asked to stand and serve as "lighthouses in their schools and make their schools their mission field."

E. Todd Sheldon of Waynesboro said his two daughters graduated from high school several years ago, but he still feels "a strong desire to pray for our nation." He said he drew inspiration from a passage in II Chronicles.

"If we clean up our act, God will clean up our nation," Sheldon said, paraphrasing the verse.

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