“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” — Psalm 46:1
Prayer is requested for the community of Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Va., and surrounding communities, following a shooting in which as many as 33 people have been killed and many more wounded.
Prayer has been requested by Good Shepherd Church of the Brethren in Blacksburg, where Marilyn Lerch serves as pastor; by Virlina District and by Shenandoah District; and by the Church of the Brethren General Board. The districts of Virlina, Shenandoah, and perhaps other districts, include several congregations with Brethren students at Virginia Tech.
News reports say this is the deadliest mass shooting in US history. As of late afternoon, the “Roanoke Times” of Roanoke, Va., at http://www.roanoke.com/ reported that at least 33 people had been killed.
According to news reports, shootings began around 7 a.m. and took place at two sites on campus, in a dormitory and a classroom. The unidentified shooter is reported to be among the dead.
“Pour prayers in this direction,” requested pastor Lerch. “Surround us with prayer.”
“The prayers of the Virlina District are with the students, parents, faculty, staff, and all concerned,” said an e-mail from district executive minister David Shumate.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those of the Virginia Tech campus community in the aftermath of today’s shootings,” said an e-mail from Shenandoah District. “We know that many of our churches have students on the campus and pray for their safety and comfort in light of this tragedy.”
General secretary Stan Noffsinger and staff of the Congregational Life Teams, Area 3, requested prayer for all affected by the shootings. Noffsinger called for prayer for families and friends of victims, the university and its staff and student body, for Brethren congregations that include university students or staff, for first responders among police and medical staff, for the faith community in Blacksburg, and for the family of the perpetrator. “They all need our prayers,” he said. “There are the innocent and their families, there’s also the family of the perpetrator with so much hostility focused toward them, and the law enforcement officers and others who are called. They all need to be embraced by an understanding that they do not walk alone.”
Good Shepherd pastor Lerch, who also serves as one of the campus ministers, was on her way to the university when she was reached by telephone in mid-afternoon. She requested prayers for the university community, and prayers for the town of Blacksburg because of its close relationship with the university. “The town is stunned,” she said. This is the second time that the campus has suffered from shootings this school year, she added. The fact that on the first day of classes a gunman was loose on campus, she said makes the situation today “especially difficult.”
At this time, Lerch said that very few details are known. She reported that the Good Shepherd congregation includes employees and faculty of the university, and so far no one in the congregation has been directly affected by the shootings at this time. She said she has been able to be in touch with most of the university employees in the congregation.
Good Shepherd Church of the Brethren will hold a silent prayer vigil this evening from 5-7 p.m., when the church will be open as a sanctuary, Lerch said. The congregation will be waiting to see what is needed, beyond this time of prayer, she said.
Virlina District shared the address for a website created by the Virginia Interfaith Center for those wishing to share comments, prayers, and condolences: http://www.compassion24x7.org/. The center will be sending a copy of all appropriate messages to the president of Virginia Tech.