Aurora pastor Mitch Hamilton told the congregation Sunday that the bulletins for the service would not be of much use -- they were printed Thursday and then "everything changed" just after midnight.
While none of Mississippi Avenue's members were among the victims, four were in an adjacent theater and escaped unharmed despite bullets flying through the walls. Nevertheless, trauma permeates the suburban Denver community after the slaying of 12 people by a lone gunman, who also left 58 wounded.
A tearful 6-year-old girl came into Hamilton's office with her mother and asked, "Pastor, why did my cousin die?"
Often visibly emotional during his sermon, Hamilton assured the congregation that even though their normalcy has been shattered, Christians can answer the question of "How do I take a step forward?"
Hamilton urged church members to do so resting in God's presence and His promise to never leave them and trusting in the person of Jesus Christ.
While the church has offered public prayer services and counseling since the tragedy, Hamilton sees Mississippi Avenue members as being a key facet of reaching out to the hurting.
"We are equipping our members," the pastor said, "to share with our community that God is real, that He loves them desperately and that He will walk this road with them if they will only turn to Him."
As is often the case after a significant loss of life, Hamilton has been asked, "Where was God in all this?" His answer, quite simply, is that "God is here."
"He is with each one walking this road and He offers His presence to any who will call upon Him," Hamilton said. "He was with the injured and the medical teams as they sought to preserve life. He was with the first responders as they responded to the call to save lives."
Moving forward, Hamilton said the greatest need for the community is prayer.
"The wounds that have been inflicted are too deep to be healed by words or resources. There are plenty who would offer both. We need the Spirit of God to fall on Aurora, draw her people to Him, and lead them into a personal relationship with Christ."
Hamilton asked prayers for church members to have:
-- opportunity to minister in the community.
-- ability to share the love of Christ with hurting people.
-- grace to care for those directly touched by the shooting.
On Sunday, Hamilton added, the church sang the modern hymn, "In Christ Alone," its words having taken on new meaning in such close proximity to such a devastating act of evil -- "No power of hell or scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand."
Aaron Earls is a writer based in Wake Forest, N.C.
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