Sunday, April 22, 2007

Service of solidarity

To work together as a community, people must cross any and all barriers that divide them, the ministers said.

People from  a number of congregations gather at Blacksburg United Methodist Church for a memorial service for the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting.

PHOTO BY Jeanna Duerscherl | The Roanoke Times

People from a number of congregations gather at Blacksburg United Methodist Church for a memorial service for the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting.

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BLACKSBURG -- A multicultural prayer service brought black, white and Korean pastors and some of their flocks together Saturday in Blacksburg to mourn the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting.

Initiated by the Rev. Glenn Orr of St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church and hosted by Blacksburg United Methodist Church and the Rev. Reggie Tuck, representatives from several denominations spoke to about 200 people, many clad in Hokie colors. The message of solidarity among the various churches pleased Orr and Tuck.

"It's just important to show that we're crossing any kind of barriers that would keep us from working together as a community," Orr said. "Already there's a lot of work going on in this community where the faith community is coming together to build a good, cohesive sort of collaborative kind of atmosphere."

Tuck estimated that at least 60 percent of those in attendance were not regular members of the host church.

The Rev. Elizabeth Morgan, interim rector of Christ Episcopal Church, read the 23rd Psalm and was followed by the Rev. John Jeong. Representing All Nations Fellowship Church, Jeong spoke briefly in careful if heavily accented English.

"Now we need to overcome our race ... to turn this into a time of healing, forgiveness and encouragement," he said.

Tuck appreciated the importance of having the Korean population represented at Saturday's service.

"I'm concerned that we not get focused on the ethnicity of the killer," he said. "Other tragedies have shown us that it can be anyone, just in this instance it happens to be a South Korean. And we need to reassure the Korean community that we understand that it could be any of us. And just as they grieve, we grieve with them."

Members of the St. Paul's congregation and a Virginia Tech student chaplain delivered a roll call of the dead in three stations. Erica Hampton, who graduated last May, and part-time Tech student Cortney Miller were at the final station.

"At the beginning of the week, I was a little angered," Miller said. "Now I think I'm starting to get into mourning. But as far as the service today, it was uplifting. I feel better today than I have been."

-- Staff report

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