Two mass rallies inspired by the Columbine High School tragedy will draw people to Washington, D.C., later this year to pray for the country's schools and a sweeping youth revival. "Take a Stand" May 19-21 will focus on a call to restore prayer in public schools, while "The Call," slated for Sept. 2, will spotlight the need for a spiritual awakening.
Darrell Scott, whose 17-year-old daughter, Rachel, was one of the Christians murdered in Littleton, Colo., last April when 12 students and one teacher died, is due to speak at both events. Top British band Delirious is among the artists scheduled to take part in The Call.
Organizers of Take a Stand hope 100,000 people will show up on the National Mall for the three-day event, bringing with them thousands of signatures for a petition urging the restoration of school prayer. Participants will circle the Supreme Court in silent prayer and also take part in a "Jericho March" round the building.
The rally is being planned by Truth Broadcasting Co., a small Christian TV ministry in Charlotte, N.C. President Linda Furr said that the idea came to her after the Columbine killings. "I was so astounded by it, and as I prayed I saw that it was a spiritual battle that was going on, that spiritual darkness has invaded the schools since prayer was taken out in 1963," she said.
"When God is not wanted somewhere He won't be there. He was basically told that He was not wanted in our public schools--they are an institution where He is not welcome. I'm sure He does work through the Christians who are there, and it would be a whole lot worse if there weren't people praying, but basically the darkness has invaded."
The 13 wooden memorial crosses erected near Columbine that became an international symbol of the tragedy will be taken to Washington for the rally. "But it is not about gun control," Furr said. "We are not going to be carrying placards or anything. This will be more of a spiritual atmosphere."
Up to 400,000 people are expected at the Mall for The Call, but "it is not about numbers," said Che Ahn, pastor of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, Calif., and chairman of the organizing group, which includes a wide-range of national youth ministries. The leading speakers and artists taking part are not being advertised because the event is "not a concert, not entertainment--it's a solemn assembly, a day where people will come together, worship, pray, fast and repent."
The idea of a national gathering of young people as a "counterpoint" to the 1997 Promise Keepers' rally first arose a couple of years ago, but was galvanized by the Columbine murders, which Ahn said were "a watershed day in American history."
Lou Engle, associate pastor at Harvest Rock and a speaker at the Rock the Nations youth prayer events, said that he believed the event could help bring about "a violent spiritual shift in the destiny of America." Parents were being encouraged to attend with young people to take part in a time of repentance and reconciliation.
"In the darkest hour of this nation we want two generations to come together to fast and pray. We are not coming to party, we are coming to seek the face of God."