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Churches reach out in response to Fort Hood shootings

Many of the wounded from the Nov. 5 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas,
were treated at the Carl N. Darnall Army Medical Center on post.
A UMNS photo by Michael Heckman, III Corps PAO, U.S. Army.

A UMNS Report 
Barbara Dunlap-Berg*
Nov. 6, 2009

First United Methodist Church in Killeen, Texas, immediately opened its chapels for prayer after a gunman opened fire at nearby Fort Hood Nov. 5, killing more than a dozen people.

The church, where much of the congregation is affiliated with the military, was staying open for prayer the next day, and will host a community worship service on Sunday.

“When a tragedy like this occurs, the whole family comes together. By that, I mean the entire military community,” said the Rev. E.F. “Skip” Blancett, church pastor. “A lot of conversation is going on in expression of grief and sympathy.”

Anyone connected with or living in the vicinity of a military base like Fort Hood becomes part of that family, he added. “An attack on any member of the family is an attack on all of us. We are all grieving.”

Bishop John Michael Lowry

Maj.Nadal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, has been identified by authorities as the suspect accused of opening fire on a military processing center, killing 13 and wounding 30 others.

Throughout the region, United Methodists were offering prayers and counseling and raising funds in the aftermath of the shooting at the military post, home to some 70,000 soldiers and their families.

“Our sense today is one of being stunned and shocked,” said the Rev. Stephen Schmidt, pastor of Grace United Methodist Church, a congregation of more than 900 members in nearby Copperas Cove.

Grace, whose membership is approximately one-third military personnel, one-third retired military and one-third business people and educators from the area, scheduled a prayer service for Nov. 6.

Schmidt, his associate pastor, and other local pastors “have all made ourselves available for counseling.” He expects to set up support groups with local mental health professionals.

The 1,900-member First United Methodist Church in Killeen is organizing a community fund to assist families at the base. The congregation is assembling “care baskets” for the families of the victims with notes saying “Someone at First United Methodist Church cares for you.”

“By the moment, our net expands,” said Blancett, who was a Navy chaplain for 22 years. “This is the most unusual church you ever will see, with a heart as big as Texas.”

Bishop John Michael Lowry of the Central Texas Annual (regional) Conference is asking Fort Worth-area congregations to take a special time of prayer on Sunday for those affected by the shootings.

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In a prayer released by the conference, the bishop asked for comfort for the affected families and gratitude “for all those who courageously responded to stop the violence and for all who have labored in treating those harmed.

“Enfold Fort Hood and the entire area in your care. Bless and guide this nation and all who serve. In your goodness and by your mercy, Lord God, may we be instruments of healing and hope.”

*Dunlap-Berg is an editor with United Methodist Communications. Linda Bloom and Carolyn Stephens also contributed to this report.

News media contact: David Briggs, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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