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Youths' mission: 'Sneak' to pray

October 26, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Two busloads of children in black clothing and camouflage will ride from Chambersburg, Pa., to Hagerstown on Wednesday evening, sneak their way into two buildings and pray.

As of Monday, they didn't know it.

It's a surprise - a lesson disguised as an adventure - planned by Point Blank Youth Ministries of Antrim Brethren in Christ Church in Chambersburg.

However, the Rev. James Reaves, who thought up the escapade, said he didn't mind The Herald-Mail writing about it in advance; he thinks the secret will keep well enough regardless.

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Hagerstown Police Lt. William C. Wright III, who knows about the church field trip, asked the information be make public to prevent worried phone calls.

"I don't want people to freak," he said.

Reaves said he's expecting between 80 and 100 preteen children, plus about 25 to 30 adults, similarly dressed in dark clothing, to get to Hagerstown at about 7:30 p.m.

The premise is this:

While the children are at their regularly scheduled Wednesday evening church service in Chambersburg, someone will come in and say the U.S. Supreme Court has voted to ban prayer in public places.

The children - who previously were told how to dress, but not why - will be led onto two school buses and driven to Hagerstown, along with the adults.

Half will get out at City Park and half at the Hagerstown Union Rescue Mission. At each spot, five adults will pretend to guard a building or enclosed area.

With the help of other adults, the children will have to figure out a way to get inside, where "they will have to perform an act of worship," Reaves said.

Then, the groups will combine and try to get into another building owned by the mission, where they will perform a religious rite.

Reaves said the idea is to show children what it might take to practice their religion in a country that doesn't allow it.

"There's a lot of places in the world where they don't have that chance," Wright said.

He said Hagerstown Police are not connected to the event, but they periodically will check on the activities to make sure all goes well.

Wright, the police department's downtown commander, thought back to his days as a Boy Scout and "Capture the Flag," a game in which teams try to steal another team's hidden flag.

He offered Wednesday's participants a strategic tip from his game-playing days.

"Distract everybody else," he said.

Wright said he knows that approach from being the guinea pig, the kid that teammates pointed to as the fake target.

Reaves said he chose the Hagerstown Union Rescue Mission through a connection.

He said that Matt Sargent, the director of Extreme Impact Youth Ministries at the mission and former youth pastor at Antrim Brethren in Christ Church, suggested the mission as a good site.

Reaves, a South Hagerstown High School graduate, said he added City Park on his own.

The event is expected to last an hour, Reaves said.

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