By Barbara Dunlap-Berg*
Nov. 6, 2009 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
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."
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. Authorities reportedly said Maj.Nadal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, opened fire on a military processing center, killing 13 and wounding 30 others.
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.
The 1,900-member First United Methodist Church in Killeen is organizing a community fund to assist families at the base.
"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."
*Dunlap-Berg is an editor with United Methodist Communications.