“I don’t need the auditorium full tonight, it is full of God,” belted out the Rev. Apostle Elbert Mondaine, senior pastor of congregations in Portland, Ore., and St. Louis, Mo.

Hearing about the killings of five Amish girls and wounds to five others at their Nickel Mines school house, Mondaine said he felt the need to start a national church movement to stop school violence.

“I said, “Where does it stop?’ ” said the pastor, who recalled 1998 in his home state when a 15-year-old boy, Kip Kinkel, shot 20 high school students and killed his parents.

“I said to God, ‘Why is this happening?’ “

About two weeks ago, he called upon the 700 members of his churches, Celebration Tabernacle in Portland, where he lives, and Grace Center in St. Louis, as well as members of other churches across the country to join in the Saturday night “The 1,000 Angels Gathering” at Bright Side.

Mondaine was accompanied by seven clergy and musicians as well as 8-year-old Nahshon Jones, who performed a song that Mondaine wrote called “Father God.”

“Father God, take my hand, teach me what it is to live again,” the little boy sang in a sweet soprano in his dedication to the Amish girls and their families. Mondaine said churches across the country need to unite and “to stand and recognize our responsibility to once again take the education of our children under our wings and teach the principles of forgiveness, inclusion and social responsibility.”

In an interview after the service, Mondaine said society is filled with so much mania and anxiety that result in tragic and horrific incidents as what happened in Nickel Mines. “We are building mega-churches, we need to be building mega-clinics,” he said.

Mondaine who has been in the county a few days, said he met with Amish spokesman Herman Bontrager. Bontrager told him that the wish of the Amish community was for him to use his time here, not to draw attention to them, but to “turn this around” and put attention toward the needs of mainstream society “to prevent it from happening again.”

The Rev. Kevin Brown of Ray’s Temple Church of God and Christ, Lancaster, who served as the local liaison for Mondaine, and the Rev. Gerald Simmons pastor of Faith Tabernacle Church, Lancaster, both helped lead the Saturday night service.

Before the service, Brown said the tragedy in Nickel Mines shows society is at a “crucible” or is being tested. One indication of that is that someone like Roberts, who was described as being kind and mannerly, can fall under the radar; that no one could tell he was very disturbed. “We are detaching ourselves from one another at such a rapid rate, we can’t pick up on things,” Brown said.

“Nobody is open to what is going on with our sisters and brothers.”

Brown said he was touched that Saturday’s gathering included a mixture of white and African-American people “to say we certainly feel the pain of the Amish.”

One of his church members, Wanda Cannon, accompanied by friends Carmella Artis, Jannette Toney and Dominai Taylor – all African-American women from Lancaster city- said she believes that it was a lesson for all that the Amish were so quick to forgive. “The enemy did it for evil, but God turned it around for our good,” Cannon said.

Fran Catanzaro, Mount Joy, who is white and a member of Brown’s church, also attended the Saturday service. She said she believes a lot of society’s ills are a result of God being removed from schools and public places.

“God became hush-hush; that is so wrong, because we need him,” she said.

Mondaine said he hopes to someday return to Lancaster County, when all the media glare is off the Amish, to speak to Amish leaders and to form a unity with them to further the cause in stopping school violence.

Patricia Poist, Sunday News (Lancaster, PA)