A sigh of relief blew like a fresh breeze across the Washington, D.C., area after the detention of two sniper suspects Oct. 24. The tension of being exiled indoors for 22 days by the snipers strained nerves and routines — and rallied faith resources.
Helen Crum, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Fairfax, Va., filled her gas tank from behind a huge blue tarp. A wedding party at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Great Falls, Va., included two security guards.
D. Mark Cooper, executive director of Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area, noted increased agitation among the mentally ill the agency serves. Immigrants were affected too. "When a discredited witness identified someone with olive skin, it became an excuse for people to be more hostile, less friendly," he said. "We've needed to be more attentive and caring."
Pastors noted dramatic effects on children. "Kids told me they were scared. They thought about the sniper in the middle of the night," said Thomas Sinnott, pastor of Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, Severn, Md. "I gave them little 'spiritual hug' cards with the Bible verse: 'Nothing can separate us from the love of God' (Romans 8:39)." Sinnott urged the children to talk with parents and teachers and to look at their cards when they were scared.
The constant reminder of one's mortality held hope for Robert Holum, pastor of Luther Place Memorial, Washington, D.C. "When we feel uneasy is when we can feel the grace of God," he said. "[Recently] people are more willing to pray out loud. They're signing up for small groups. People want to deepen their faith."
On the eve of a fatal shooting in their area, youth of St. Luke Lutheran Church, Silver Spring, Md., led an ecumenical prayer service for Middle East peace. "[They] had been experiencing firsthand the terror of violence and innocent suffering. They sent their love and prayers to their sisters and brothers in the Middle East, who have been suffering even more," said Katherine Miller, youth director.
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