On Monday, more than 90 residents and community leaders from South Pasadena and beyond gathered in an interfaith circle in front of South Pasadena High School to pray for the school year ahead.
Clergy leaders shared prayers, and people of all ages had an opportunity to express their own thoughts and desires for the start of the academic year.
“Really we just want to be a positive presence,” said Rev. Lincoln Skinner of Oneonta Congregational Church, who helped organize the gathering.
“We want to support people and let them know that our hearts, our thoughts and our spirits are with them and that they have a great school year. That’s why we’re here.”
In its sixth consecutive year, Pray For Schools was first held in August 2014 a day before school started in response to a foiled shooting at the school. Skinner shared that the community felt shaken afterward and wanted to find a way to bring everyone together, and to grow and learn from the experience.
The biggest desire expressed was to pray together. That year, around 300 people gathered in front of the school to show their belief that prayer is powerful and important for the community.
“It was a really powerful moment and all the pastors in town just looked at each other and said, ‘We need to keep this going,’ ” said Skinner.
Those gathered this week shared prayers of peace and protection for students, teachers, administrators and city leaders as the microphone was passed around the circle. Many expressed feelings of love for the city and the desire to see connections made throughout the year.
Others shared hopes that those in need will reach out and share with someone when they feel they’re alone.
With hands raised in prayer throughout the group sharing, Doris Scott came out to the gathering for her first time with a firm belief in faith and to show support for her grandchildren and others within the district.
“I really want safety,” said Scott. “I really want us to come together as community. I want the values of God and Jesus. I want love present. I want acceptance present. I want us being in communication. I want for people when they’re afraid or alone, or helpless or fearful, that they reach out and discover God’s presence right there and God’s grace. There’s a being that’s always got their back.”
Donna Gibson of Holy Family Catholic Church said it was important for her to be there for “the children and all of the things that have happened, the shootings and all the other things that are so terrible and the fear that the children have coming to school.”
Mosaic Church Youth Leader John Thomas Benson shared a song with fellow church members at the start of the gathering and said afterward he felt grateful that events like it were still being held today, as it feels like an old practice. He said that a prayer from one of the young girls present strongly resonated with him.
“I loved her prayer,” said Benson. “It seemed just so honest. She was saying how she’s scared and she knows her friends are scared too. I believe that her generation and her friends are going to be the ones to change things.”
Pray for Schools completed the evening with a collective reciting of the peace prayer of St. Francis and singing of “Amazing Grace.”
As the start of the St. Francis prayer goes, “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hated, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.”