AURORA, Colo. (ANS) -- Prayers for love and forgiveness, rather than condemnation, were led from pulpits and altars in churches across Aurora Sunday morning, according to Jennifer Rios, writing for the website m.vcstar.com/news.
At Aurora Hills Baptist Church, assistant pastor Zac Clark spent part of the service talking about the parents of Jason Holmes -- the 24-year-old alleged gunman who was taken into custody after the shooting at the Century 16 theater complex.
"What are they going through right now?" Carter asked his congregation. “They're thinking, ‘Where did I mess up? The whole world is going to hate us because we raised a monster. Because we did this.’"
"And I felt horrible," he said. "No parent wants to raise a kid who ends up doing something like this."
Rios reports that Pastor Clark said what Holmes' parents need now is comfort and prayers -- along with families of the 12 people killed early Friday morning. While he hopes justice will be served in this case, he reminded the crowd it wasn't their place to do so.
Rios said Clark was grateful that some of the members of his youth group who had planned to attend the premier of The Dark Knight Rises had opted instead on church camp. He reminded people that after forgiveness they should "be bold in their faith."
"We're here as a church to help our community. ... If you see somebody in tears, take that opportunity to pray with them, to just be someone who can listen to them, to be someone to give a shoulder to cry on. That's what we're called on as the church. To really step up to be that light in such a dark world."
At Harvest Christian Center, about 300 people gathered for the morning's two services honoring those victims lost Friday, Rios stated.
"The message was really just that," Bishop Kevin Foreman said about the church's "We Will Rise" service.
Rios reports that a special prayer was said for the victims and their families, and their photos were shown. To Foreman’s knowledge, none of the victims' families were present at the service.
Those who died in the shooting include Jonathan Blunk, Jesse Childress, Gordon Cowden, Jessica Ghawi, John Larimer, Alexander "AJ" Boik, Matt McQuinn, Micayla Medek, Alex Sullivan, Veronica Moser Sullivan, Alexander Teves and Rebecca Ann Wingo.
Rios said the congregation was not directly affected by the shooting, but one member had a brother who was shot in the leg while at the theater.
Rios reports Foreman said he spoke with the mayor's office Friday and Aurora Police Department to see what it was they needed.
"I knew we needed to get to work," he said Sunday after the services. "Not talk, but actually do something."
Rios said that as a result, Foreman’s church delivered breakfast burritos, juices and donuts to feed about 50 on-duty officers Sunday morning.
On Friday the church's food bank saw a spike in calls for help -- a number Foreman said may be related to the number of people displaced while officers secured the area around Holmes’ apartment.
Rios reports Foreman said it was too early for him to talk about forgiveness in connection to the shooting for several reasons. Not enough is known about the case at this time, Foreman said, and another is that people sometimes interpret forgiveness as a sign to those suffering to get over their grief.
With the crisis unfolding just three days ago -- and the names of those who died slowly coming to light -- grief is still fresh for families and the community.
"We believe God can take tragedy and turn it into triumphs," Foreman said.
Rios goes on to report that Joel Hirsch, assistant pastor of Calvary Chapel of Aurora, said the church is setting up a fund to collect money for families of those who lost a loved one in the shooting. On Friday he and five other church members were at Gateway High School waiting with families as they waited for news.
Mostly they just listened, Rios reported.
"You're bearing their burdens with them," Hirsch said.
Rios concluded her report by stating that a group of 34 young adults from Calvary Chapel were at the theater that night -- including at least one young man who knew Boik, the Gateway High student who was killed.
Both Calvary and Aurora Hills churches are raising money for victims' families, Rios reported.
Pastor Hirsch said Sunday morning's service at Calvary was focused on understanding.
"God gives meaning to all those things," Hirsch said, "and He's allowed it for a purpose."
Michael Ireland is the senior international correspondent for ANS. He is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB UK, a British Christian radio station. While in the UK, Michael traveled to Canada and the United States, Albania, Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany and Czechoslovakia. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China and Russia.
Publication date: July 24, 2012