Prayers offered for victims

February 03, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

As the Rev. Bill Clark wove the space shuttle Columbia disaster into his worship service Sunday morning, he couldn't help but recall doing the same thing 17 years ago.

The veteran pastor of Mountain View Baptist Church on Walnut Point Road in Hagerstown said he remembers feeling the same shock Saturday morning that he did on Jan. 28, 1986, when Challenger exploded at the beginning of its mission.

"We had a special prayer Sunday for the people on the shuttle and for their families," Clark said.

The change in his planned service reflects the level of patriotism and caring exhibited by the parishioners at Mountain View, Clark said.


"We have strong support for our country here at Mountain View," Clark said.

One of the first opportunities for reaction to the tragedy, which began to unfold at 9 a.m. Saturday, came for the Seventh-day Adventist churches in the area, all of which hold Saturday services.

"We learned about the disaster between Sabbath school and the worship at 11 a.m.," said Vera Hoffer, wife of Pastor James Hoffer of the Hagerstown Seventh-day Adventist Church at 11507 Robinwood Drive.

The pastor's wife said her husband made an announcement at the beginning of his sermon about the tragic breakup of the shuttle during its re-entry to Earth.

At St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Smithsburg on Sunday morning, Pastor Mark Mooney got an opportunity to reach out to the youth during Sunday school.

He took the front page of a newspaper, put it down on a table and asked the young people how they thought the church should respond to such tragedies.

"One young person immediately said that we should pray for the families," Mooney said.

Mooney said it was a good opportunity for young people to talk about their feelings rather than isolate themselves and keep those feelings pent up.

"I also put the shuttle crew and their families in my prayers during the worship service," Mooney said.

Pastor Ed Poling of Hagerstown Church of the Brethren said he thought about changing his topic but decided to stick with "When the Foundations Shake," which dealt with the sex scandals within the Roman Catholic church.

"I mentioned the shuttle disaster in our prayers and then again briefly in my sermon," Poling said.

The Rev. Randy Tremba, pastor at Shepherdstown (W.Va.) Presbyterian Church, said he talked about the shuttle disaster before his regular services began Sunday. Tremba said it was evident the crash was weighing heavily on everyone's minds. He equated the situation to an elephant that walked into the room and no one was talking about it.

"When this sort of thing happens, there's no use in going on with business as usual," Tremba said.

Tremba said he extended sympathies to the NASA community and President Bush, offered a prayer to the families of the astronauts and recited the 23rd Psalm.

The Rev. Ernest Lyles of Asbury United Methodist Church in Shepherdstown said he offered prayers on Sunday for the families of the astronauts.

Lyles said Gov. Bob Wise invited him to travel to Charleston, W.Va., to participate in a statewide prayer service set for Tuesday to honor the astronauts. Lyles said he is planning to participate in the service, which will be held at the state's Cultural Center at noon.

At the Falling Spring Presbyterian Church in Chambersburg, Pa., music and prayers were directed toward the astronauts who perished on Columbia.

"In the prayer we emphasized thankfulness for their courage, their gifts, their dedication to their countries - the United States and Israel - and their commitment to expanding the frontiers of knowledge through space travel," said the Rev. William Harter.

"People were moved and reflective. It was a time when people's hearts were deeply touched," he said.

Harter said the congregation also prayed that the country would learn from the disaster, improve the safety of space travel and continue its commitment to the space program.

"We also asked God's forgiveness, because sometimes we take these missions with danger too much for granted, and we need to be praying more in the future for those who are part of these missions," Harter said.

Staff writers Stacey Danzuso and Dave McMillion contributed to this story.

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