Prayer service to reflect on Charleston massacre

Pastor Scott Schul will pray, sing and lament Wednesday.

He hopes to do it with familiar faces and strangers alike.

Schul, a pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in State College, will open the church’s doors to anyone who wants to be included in a prayer service for the victims of the Charleston shooting. The prayer service will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday at 205 S. Garner St.

“We want it to be a community moment of reflection,” Schul said.

The prayer service is in part a coordinated effort by the Lutheran Church

“Following what happened in Charleston, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Elizabeth Eaton called for us to engage in repentence and mourning,” Schul said. “Then Bishop (Michael) Rhyne, called for a week of prayer and we considered ways to respond and decided to open our doors to the community.”

Rhyne, bishop of the Allegheny Synod of the ELCA, senior pastor the Rev. Steve Lynn and the Rev. Alison Bowlen will also participate in the service.

Schul said Rhyne was a classmate and friend of Bishop Clementa Pinckney. Pinckney was leading a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church before he was killed along with eight other churchgoers last week.

Schul said he felt compelled to gather people in an effort to accept and love each other.

“This is also a long overdue recognition that racism is alive and well in parts of our country, and all are perpetrators of that whether we realize it or not,” Schul said. “It’s a wake-up call that there is work still to be done for racial reconciliation and the ability to see each other as God sees us as God’s beloved children, regardless of the color of our skin or origin or other things we make up that divide us.”

It will also be an opportunity, he said, for people to turn to God for answers.

“Many in our congregation were looking for a way to channel their emotions,” he said. “It’s an overwhelming problem and sad thing that happened in South Carolina, and history suggests maybe we can’t solve it on our own. What else can we do, but turn to Jesus Christ?”

Schul is unsure of how many people will attend the service.

“I hope we’re overwhelmed with folks, but it’s impossible to tell. I do know the Lord will be there, and we’ll pray, sing, have psalms of lament and ask Jesus Christ ‘where are you in the midst of all of this and where do we go from here?’” he said. “We’ll continue to ask those questions and trust Jesus Christ.”