West Philadelphia Residents Find Solace at Church Services With AM-MOVE, Bjt
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Residents of the neighborhood ravaged by fire in a police confrontation with the radical group MOVE filed into churches Sunday to seek solace, offer assistance and look ahead.
″Let us set our sights on what can be, not what is,″ said the Rev. Charles H. Diamond, pastor at St. Carthage Roman Catholic Church, where more than 300 people gathered for a ″Mass for Support and Hope.″
St. Carthage, three blocks from the MOVE rowhouse bombed by police on Monday, served as a Red Cross shelter after the ensuing fire destroyed 53 houses, damaged eight others and left 270 people homeless.
Throughout the neighborhood, from churches built of stone to converted storefronts, worshippers offered prayers for the dead, the homeless and the city, as suggested by Mayor W. Wilson Goode.
″Now is not the time for talking about whose fault, why’d they do this or that,″ the Rev. Raymond D. Sutton at Liberty Baptist Church. ″Our top priority is what we do for these refugees. We have to take care of human needs.″
Sutton also is a forensic technician for the city medical examiner, and he helped identify the 11 charred bodies, including those of four children, taken from the MOVE headquarters.
The Baptist church donated 40 cases of food the day after the fire, Sutton said, and a special collection will be taken next Sunday.
Grace Davis, a member of the church’s choir, said the ″best thing we can do is stick together and pray, and give what we can give.″
At St. George’s Episcopal Church, the Rev. Russell A. Bechtel conducted a baptismal service. In a sermon, he acknowledged the congregation may have been asking of their God, ″Where has he been in our troubled and difficult times? Where was he last week?″
Bechtel said, ″God’s spirit is in creation ... He is also present in community.″
Mayor Goode, a deacon at the First Baptist Church of Paschall 30 blocks away, asked the congregation to join him in a silent prayer.
″The one assurance I have is, as long as I can keep my hand in God’s hand, everything is going to be all right,″ Goode said.