The religious reflect on Richmond rape
on November 1, 2009
On Sunday, eight days after the rape of a 15-year-old girl put Richmond in the spotlight, religious leaders at local churches denounced the crime and offered prayers for those involved.
Across the city, church leaders and congregations discussed healing, the community’s moral compass and ways of addressing the crime with church youth groups.
Pastors of several churches met earlier this week to plan the themes they would address this weekend. Pastor Jim Heden of Hilltop Community Church, an Assembly of God congregation located at 3118 Shane Drive, said the discussions prompted tears from some of the pastors.
After Heden delivered his sermon, “God’s Antidote to Damaged Emotions,” to at least 250 churchgoers, youth pastor Corey Rose emphasized the importance of ritual in healing.
“Spiritually, everyone looks to the church during hard times,” Rose said.
At Independent Community Church, located at 601 S. 16th Street, speakers addressed how healing can come after abuse. The church is planning to hold a prayer vigil on Monday, Nov. 2 at 1 p.m. at a church across the street from Richmond High School. Ministers from other Richmond churches have been invited to attend.
“We will be praying for the school, the young lady, her family, the perpetrators of the crime, and Richmond,” Elder Raymond Landry said. “Lord knows we need help in this city, and God is in the helping business.”
At St. Cornelius Catholic Church on 28th Street and Macdonald Avenue, the focus of a packed, midday Spanish-language mass was the Feast of All Saints. But the Rev. Filiberto Barrera also called on the more than 900 people in attendance—including many teenagers preparing to receive the sacrament of confirmation—to pray for both the rape victim and those who assaulted her.
“We pray for our city of Richmond, convulsed by violence and by this madness of the attack on the young girl,” said Barrera in Spanish, adding that prayers should also be sent to the young men who contributed to the crime and their families.
Once a year, Barrera said, a psychologist from Los Angeles visits the congregation. Barrera added that he considers it a blessing that the psychologist is coming this Friday, as it is likely that he will discuss issues like safety with parents and youth.
Barrera said that recently another local teen girl had been raped by three men after they put a drug in her drink. Her friend, who was part of the confirmation class, was also drugged but managed to get away from the men in time.
“The reality of abuse is that it happens a lot,” Barrera said. “I feel really powerless. I told the kids they need to be careful. All people have dignity. Women should not be used as sex objects.”
Rose said that at Hilltop Community Church, he is focusing on the way youth are thinking about the rape.
“If it was on my mind, I know it was on their minds 10 times more,” he said. “Kids are just sick about it.”
As are many adults.
“We’ve been embarrassed, because we live here,” Elder Landry said. “We invite people here, to our church, but when we say it’s in Richmond, it’s like, they only know it for the 47 murders, or for the rape.”
“Pray for Richmond,” he said “Lord, help Richmond.”
Ryan Phillips, Alex Weber, Ian Stewart and Carah Herring contributed to this article. Katherine Griffin translated quotes from the St. Cornelius mass.
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