Praying in front of Evanston Township High School Monday morning are (from left) Keir Young, member of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church; the Rev. Phyllis Pickett, of Bethel; Kat Banakis, pastor of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church; DarLisa Himrod, member of Bethel; and the Rev. Rosalind Shorter Henderson, pastor of Bethel, who said: “We want to glorify God and horrify the devil and edify the people.” Credit: Richard Cahan

A few dozen clergy members and faithful prayed for Evanston High School students, teachers and staff on Monday morning at the start of the school year.

“Education is so important,” said the Rev. Rosalind Shorter Henderson of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. “And if you’re in an environment that is full of violence and negativity, it is difficult to learn. And so we believe that if we come and pray, we believe that God will be able to give us peace in the school and the children will be able to learn.”

The Rev. Rosalind Shorter Henderson, pastor of Bethel AME Church, at ETHS on Aug. 15. Credit: Richard Cahan

The event was organized by Pray4Peace Evanston and Positive Presence. The groups sent letters to about 100 clergy and supporters asking them to surround the high school wearing religious attire along the four streets that border the school.

The groups also asked for four clergy members to appear at each of the District 65 middle and elementary schools to pray on Aug. 24 to start their school year.

“The idea was that students see, that they get a visual [showing] that there are people in the community that are thinking about you, supporting you, rooting for you,” said Chris Herning, pastor of the Evanston Vineyard.

“I just think it’s important that we start to lift up our kids and community,” said the Rev. Phyllis Pickett, of Bethel. “There are a lot of churches, pastors, ministers in this community. And so I think that God is calling us at this time to cover our children as they come to school. There’s so much happening all over the place. And we just want our kids to feel safe out there.”

Pickett is a retired Evanston High School teacher.

The Rev. Phyllis Pickett, of Bethel AME Church, at ETHS on Aug. 15. Credit: Richard Cahan

“More than we realize, these students understand that they need all that they can get,” Pickett said. “They need prayer. A lot may not be familiar with it, but I think they understand they need something more than where they are right now.”

Kat Banakis, pastor of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, said the effort showed that the faith community supports the schools.

“I think that the religious community has an obligation and responsibility to be an excellent community partner,” Banakis said. “And anything we can do to uphold and bless our community is what we need to do as people of God and as a religious community.”

Keir Young, member at Bethel, said she told her son, an ETHS freshman, that she was going to be standing outside praying.

“He was excited,” she said.

“He didn’t say, ‘Mom, don’t do this’?” she was asked.

“No,” Young said. “I was surprised.”

Richard Cahan takes photos for the Evanston RoundTable. He also is publisher of CityFiles Press, a small but mighty media company that believes in the power of words and pictures. You can reach him at...