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Prayers offered for safe, peaceful school year in Washington County

September 08, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

WILLIAMSPORT -- As a new school year begins, Old Forge Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Eddie Waldron is praying for wisdom.

Tenth-grader Elizabeth Stroud is praying for peace and unity among students. Maryland State Police Trooper Travis Brown is praying for an "encampment of angels" around schools and school buses. And Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan is praying for the vision for educators to see students' needs and the strength to take action on students' behalf.

Those prayers and others were among those shared Sunday by a group of school and community officials, teachers, students and pastors at a back-to-school prayer gathering at Byron Memorial Park in Williamsport.

"We think (prayer) can make the difference between a good school year and a great school year," said Denny Newcomer of Mercersburg, Pa., head of the Evangelical Christian Leaders Network prayer committee, which organized the event.

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About 135 people from at least eight churches and ministries gathered at the park for the event, which began with a potluck meal and time of fellowship. Also present were Washington County Board of Education members Wayne D. Ridenour and Ruth Anne Callaham, and several local teachers and principals.

After the meal, 10 people offered prayers for students, teachers, parents, administrators, bus drivers, maintenance staff, security officers and all others involved in local education.

Prayer committee member Clarence Horst said the idea behind the event was that having many people pray together sends a more powerful message to God than a few individual prayers.

Washington County schools have been "very blessed" in the past in avoiding tragedies, and religious leaders wanted to pray for that safety and security to continue this year, Horst said.

The gathering was also intended to express the religious community's support for students, teachers, administrators and other school staff, Newcomer said.

"This is our way of saying, 'We're here with you,'" he said.

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