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Pa. Churches Offer Prayers for Slain Schoolgirls

Amish and non-Amish alike sought comfort in churches and in each other in prayer services Tuesday night as the region struggled to come to grips with the deadly shooting at a one-room Amish schoolhous
( [email protected] ) Oct 04, 2006 01:33 PM EDT

GEORGETOWN, Pa. (AP) — Amish and non-Amish alike sought comfort in churches and in each other in prayer services Tuesday night as the region struggled to come to grips with the deadly shooting at a one-room Amish schoolhouse.

At least three services were held, attracting more than 1,650 people, who observed moments of silence, sang mournful hymns and listened to Bible readings.

"Set your troubled hearts to rest," the Rev. Douglas Hileman said from the pulpit of Georgetown United Methodist Church, a short distance from the crime scene. "May we be able to forgive as God has already forgiven us."

About 120 people — a half-dozen Amish among them — attended the nondenominational service, including Robyn Haynes, 31, of Quarryville. With two young daughters of her own, Haynes said she felt compelled to come.

"What else can you do? You have to show support somehow," said Haynes, who grew up a few doors from the school where five Amish girls were killed and five others wounded on Monday.

At The Worship Center, a nondenominational evangelical Christian church in the Lancaster suburbs, about 1,500 people filled a community prayer service featuring contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Michael W. Smith, who dedicated a song "to these five precious girls who I plan on seeing on the other side."

"Is this God's will that this happened? Absolutely not," Smith said. "But he will use it for good."

Dwight Lefever, a friend of the family of gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV, said they were "a family broken, a family devastated."

"Last night and tonight, there's a lot of homes — a lot of houses — of mourning," Lefever said.

About 45 people attended a third service at Hershey Mennonite Church in nearby Kinzers, organized by a pastor who has five daughters under age 11. "It really hit me, and it felt like it would be a good time for fellowship," said the pastor, Toshi Imchen.

Delivering the litany, entitled "Prayer for a hurting community," church member Janet Gehman offered a prayer for the dead and injured.

"Hold in your arms now the children who need healing in body and spirit: the little girls lying in hospital beds and the little boys who have lost sisters and friends," she said.

Melanie Nolt, 31, of East Earl, a mother of three, said she could not comprehend the loss.

"These poor parents send their kids off to school like any other morning, never dreaming that something like this would happen," she said.

Congregants dabbed their eyes as they sang "Lord Listen to Your Children Praying," its lyrics seeming to fit the moment and the situation:

"Lord listen to your children praying. Lord send your spirit in this place. Lord listen to your children praying. Send us love, send us pow'r, send us grace!"

Associated Press writer Mark Scolforo contributed to this story.

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