The Rev. Rick Burcham stands in front of more than 170 bowed heads at the Williamstown Assembly of God. He offers sanguine messages to family and friends of Shawn Fowler.
Fowler went missing more than a month ago and his whereabouts remain unknown. So, Burcham helped organize a vigil in support of the 44-year-old Perry man’s family. Many fear the worst for the Fowler, including that he possibly fell over a steep bank into the nearby Delaware River.
“It’s human nature to speculate,” Burcham says to the congregation. “Shawn’s parents have heard everything – he’s been kidnapped, he’s been murdered, that he’s been taken to some distant rehab center, but we just don’t know.”
Officials say that Fowler, who went missing on Dec. 10, has a medical condition that could cause him to become confused or disoriented.
Both Fowler and his parents, Dale and Judy, are longtime members of the Williamstown Assembly of God. After the vigil, his parents and older brother Eric, who now lives in Wellsville, offered thanks, hugs and handshakes to friends and family as they exited.
Eric said that such a vigil helped instill optimism about his brother’s location and status.
“Until you know something definitely, you gotta have hope,” he said. “Otherwise, what’s the point?”
One member of the church, Paul Juedes, said he had known the Fowlers since he was just a kid. The 33-year-old, who plays drums in the church’s worship band, said that this Sunday’s service was different than most.
“This service was geared toward Shawn and the family,” he said. “It was hard for me sometimes to keep going without tears in the eyes as we were playing.”
In spite of fears about Fowler, Juedes said the sentiment is similar among many members: hope for a positive outcome until a definitive answer presents itself.
A train blows its whistle as it rolls by the church during Burcham’s sermon.
“Lord, we play for resolution,” he says. “We pray for hope, but we play for closure for Dale and Judy.”
The congregation replies, “Amen.”
Fowler is 6 feet tall and weights about 180 pounds. He has long brown hair and a beard. Anybody with information about Fowler should contact Jefferson County emergency officials at (785) 863-2351.