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Penn. Pastors Urge Healing

Pastors in this suburb marred by a shooting rampage that left three dead and two critically wounded offered sermons focused on healing.

"It's been a trying, trying week," said the Rev. Donald Owens Sr., pastor of St. Mark AME Church, as he prepared to address about 70 people Sunday in his congregation.

"I've gotten calls from Florida, California and everywhere about this sad, sad thing in our community. It always happens somewhere else, but this time it happened here," Owens said.

Owens urged parishioners to pray for the hospitalized victims and their families and the families of the dead.

He also urged them to pray for 39-year-old Ronald Taylor, who has been charged with criminal homicide, ethnic intimidation - Pennsylvania's term for a hate crime - aggravated assault, arson, and causing a catastrophe.

Police said Taylor became enraged over a broken door at his apartment and set it on fire Wednesday, then shot a maintenance worker at his building and customers at two fast-food restaurants. He later surrendered to police after a standoff with hostages.

Taylor is black, and police allege that he had about 20 pages of anti-white and anti-Jewish writings in his apartment.

Allegheny County Judge Livingstone Johnson, a member of the St. Mark congregation, said Sunday that he knew Taylor outside the courtroom. He said his shock at the rampage increased dramatically when he learned that Taylor was the suspect.

"He was a very respectful person, always 'Your honor' this and 'Your honor' that," the judge said Sunday. "It's very sad that this happened, but I agree with Rev. Owens that it could have happened anywhere."

Like Owens, Bishop Joseph Garlington, pastor of The Covenant Church of Pittsburgh, delivered messages of healing and forgiveness to his congregation.

"It takes a tragic moment to help us focus on this kind of reality that we don't know where death is," Garlington said. "We want to pray for the victims and pray for the perpetrator, for what was in his heart and in his mind."

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