ACU students rely on their faith for comfort


Thursday, September 13, 2001

By Loretta Fulton

Reporter-News Staff Writer

"O God, Our Help in Ages Past" rang from the bell tower Wednesday as students filed into chapel at Abilene Christian University, seeking solace from that ageless source.

Tuesday night college students jammed the auditorium of the Abilene Civic Center to take part in Grace Bible Study, an upbeat weekly praise service that had a more serious tone in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the East Coast.

Those scenes were repeated across the country Tuesday and Wednesday as people headed toward houses of worship to seek comfort and strength. The reason people turn to God following tragedies of such magnitude is simple, said Eddie Sharp, minister of University Church of Christ and speaker at Wednesday's chapel service at ACU.

"All of the less important things that occupy our lives are suddenly put into perspective," he said.

The Rev. Jim Wingert, campus minister at McMurry University, said turning to faith when human endeavors fail is only natural. The government could not prevent Tuesday's attacks, which left people shaken, so they turned to faith.

"All the other temporal resources we have have failed," he said. "You go back to the things you're certain about."

Religious leaders locally and nationally were quick to respond after terrorists hijacked four airliners on Tuesday, crashing two into the World Trade Center in New York City, one into the Pentagon and one in Pennsylvania.

In addition to Christian leaders of all denominations, Jewish and Islamic leaders sent national pleas for restraint and prayer. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a prominent Washington-based Islamic advocacy group, called on Muslims nationwide to offer whatever assistance they can to help victims of the terrorist attacks.

The United Jewish Communities, based in New York, asked for donations to its emergency relief fund to aid victims. The UJC also expressed its "great sadness and horror at the recent attacks'' and called on all Americans to "stand in solidarity and to act with continued compassion and generosity."

Religious leaders such as James Dobson of Focus on theFamily, Jerry Falwell and evangelist Billy Graham's son, Franklin, also called on the nation to turn to God.

Locally, churches held special prayer services Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Students at Abilene's Christian universities gathered on campus to talk and pray together.

Carlos Macias, an ACU student from Mexico, said students wanted to offer prayers to God in a communal fashion. "We can see every day how God hears our prayers and answers them," Macias said.

A theme that emerged among college students was one of restraint in responding to the terrorist attacks. On Tuesday, ACU President Royce Money urged students to avoid singling out specific religious or ethnic groups to blame.

At Tuesday night's Grace Bible Study, worship leader Matt Chandler asked the students to pray for the souls of the terrorists as well as the victims. It was a good message, said Sarah Locke, a McMurry sophomore in attendance.

"It was so we don't let hate control us," she said.

That theme also was stressed Tuesday night at a prayer service on the campus of Hardin-Simmons University.

"Pray for the families of those impacted that they will not have an unresolved hurt or anger," said Chris Sammons, director of Baptist Student Ministry.

At Wednesday's chapel service at ACU, students were encouraged not to succumb to the same hate the terrorists showed.

"We've seen what that does," said Sharp, the chapel speaker. "Today we refuse to bow at the altar of hate"

Contact spirituality writer Loretta Fulton at 676-6778 or fultonl@abinews.com

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