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Area clergy respond to GA school shooting

BY GEORGE PIPER | CONYERS, Ga. | May 20, 1999

CONYERS, Ga. (May 20, 1999) -- The dangerous combination of guns and students

replayed itself again Thursday after six students were shot by a fellow

student at a suburban Atlanta high school.

Just before classes began at Heritage High School in Conyers, Ga., about 35

miles east of Atlanta, a 15-year-old sophomore started shooting, wounding

six people. All are expected to recover.

The shooting comes one month to the day after two students gunned down 13

people before killing themselves at Columbine High School in Littleton,

Colo. The tragedy there left the country's school districts on edge as

countless students nationwide have been arrested for planning copycat

attacks or suspended for even joking about committing a similar crime.

Additionally, numerous schools have closed following anonymous bomb threats.

While Thursday's tragedy lacks the deadly horror of Littleton, the

psychological impact is strong on Conyers, a fast-growing suburb. School

officials already met with area ministers and plan to open school only for

those who want to seek counseling after the shooting, said Jonathan Holston,

a Georgia-based Church World Service disaster resource consultant who also

works for the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church.

"(Friday) they will be opening up the school, but only for counseling," he

said.. "What we're just trying to do is allow the community to express its

grief or express its concern."

At this point, ministers providing the counseling will be providing an

attentive ear and allow people to pour out their feelings, said Holston.

"There's a lot of concern about how this can happen in our community,

especially after what happened in Columbine," he said.

A community-wide ecumenical service is scheduled 4:30 p.m. Sunday at

Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Conyers.

It's too early to say what other needs the faith community will be providing

to Conyers, Holston said. But the faith community works together well, he

added, and he's confident they'll answer the

call again.

"It's a time where all of us are asking a lot of questions, but I think this

is a time where the church will have an integral part in helping how persons

become a community again," he said.

Posted May 20, 1999

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