Georgia religious leaders call for prayer after Paris attacks

Church leaders around Atlanta on Sunday called for prayer for Paris and the people who lost loved ones in the wave of terror attacks that hit the heart of the city on Friday night.

At St. Luke’s Episcopal, a historic church on Peachtree Street, the Rev. Dan Matthews, Jr. delivered a somber, prayer-filled message devoted entirely to the events in Paris.

As Matthews began, a bell also tolled, over and over. Matthews spoke slowly Sunday morning, in cadence with the bells.

“We ask, how long O Lord?” he said. “How long will the violence continue? How long must our sorrow endure? Six locations of terrorism. We watched the news and our hearts broke. It took place in Paris, France. But the location is irrelevant. Because what happened on Friday happened to all of humanity everywhere. We are all diminished by their deaths.”

With each statement, another bell sounded from the church organ.

“Each bell represents a person. Each bell tolls for a life extinguished,” Matthews said. “Extinguished by fear. Extinguished by bigotry. Extinguished by hate. One hundred twenty nine individuals who woke on Friday morning, with their lives ahead of them. For them, today we will pause. We know it is not enough. We know their lives are worth more recognition than this.”

“Yet, despite the seeming feebleness of our attempt, today this will be our remembrance,” Matthews said. “No more words. They fall short in this moment. Let us, in silence observe the tolling for those who have died while we pray fervently to God, that these bells never ring again.”

At that moment, as the morning sun pushed through the stained glass windows, the sanctuary packed with worshipers reminded silent except for the bells. Heads were bowed. Prayers were said. Lost lives were remembered as Matthews asked God to receive the victims “into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, into the glorious company of the saints in light.”

As the bell tolled for the 129th time, Matthews said “Amen.”

-- From staff writer Carrie Teegardin

‘The wickedness of men’

At Eagles Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Pastor Tim Dowdy also urged his congregation to pray for the families in Paris.

“It’s horrific what the wickedness of men will carry out in the world,” Dowdy said Sunday morning. “Lives have been forever changed.”

He also said that people should pray for the perpetrators of Friday’s horrific attacks, as well.

“We also need to pray for those wicked men that God will work in such a way that even the wicked in the world will come to know Him and their hearts will be changed,” he said.

-- From staff writer Tammy Joyner

'Let peace fill the earth'

At the Jewish synagogue Congregation Shearith Israel in Morningside, Rabbi Melvin Sirner briefly recounted the events in Paris. He then asked the congregation to join in reading a prayer that is not part of the usual liturgy: A Prayer for Peace.

The prayer includes the stanza:

For all who live on earth shall realize
we have not come into being to hate or to destroy
We have come into being to praise, to labor, and to love.

And it concludes with:
Let love and justice flow like a mighty stream
Let peace fill the earth as the waters fill the sea.

-- From staff writer Michael E. Kanell

'God has blessed us'

At the 11 a.m. service at Antioch Baptist Church North, worshipers were reminded to pray for the people of Paris, especially those who lost loved ones in Friday's terrorist attack.

"Sometimes we take freedom for granted," co-pastor Kenneth Alexander told those fathered at the downtown Atlanta church. "God has blessed us that we weren't under attack."

Too often, Alexander said, we don't realize how blessed we are until we see others endure tragedy.

"Let's pray for those who are being terrorized."

-- From staff writer Gracie Bonds Staples