Prayer vigils, counseling offered in shootings wake

BY GEORGE PIPER | LITTLETON, Colo. | April 22, 1999


LITTLETON, Colo. (April 22, 1999) -- Churches continued prayer vigils and

opened their doors to area residents as the community continues to cope with

the shock and horror in the wake of this week's massacre at Columbine High

School in suburban Denver.

National faith-based disaster relief organizations are supplementing local

resources and offering whatever help they can for survivors.

Lives in this town of 35,000 changed forever Tuesday when two armed gunmen

opened fire on fellow students and staff. After killing 12 classmates and a

teacher, the two took their own lives, leaving physical and emotional gashes

everywhere.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance PDA, the disaster-response arm of the

Presbyterian Church U.S.A., has sent its new pastoral reorientation team to

Littleton. The group, formed to provide assistance in cases of a major

terrorist event, utilizes a peer-to-peer debriefing model aimed at helping

clergy as they go from crisis mode back to their regular duties, says Stan

Hankins, PDA associate for U.S. Disaster Response.

Bob Barnes, a member of the PDA team, is spearheading the organization's

effort in Littleton. Lutheran Disaster Response is working with Lutheran

Family Services of Colorado in providing trauma and grief counseling support through church gatherings, according to Gil Furst, director of Evangelical Lu

theran Church in America (ELCA) Domestic Disaster Response.

The United Methodist Church, through its United Methodist Committee on

Relief (UMCOR) and The Upper Room, has sent counselors and other resources

to help survivors recover emotionally. Five United Methodist congregations

have families with students enrolled at the school in Littleton.

Clergy from throughout the area worked late into Tuesday night listening to

survivors' stories and consoling them. On Wednesday in between prayer vigils

and special worship services, pastors fanned out through the community,

often stopping and talking with students and staff who gathered at a park

near the school.

Posted April 22, 1999


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