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Presbyterian churches remember victims in Texas school shootings


Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is in contact with presbytery leaders

By Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE – Presbyterian church leaders continue to follow the aftermath of last Friday’s mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in the Houston area. As many as 10 people were killed and 13 wounded in the 25-minute attack. Authorities are still investigating what led the 17-year-old suspect to fire on students and faculty.

For residents in and around Houston, there is shock and pain, according to local church leaders.

“So far, the Red Cross has taken the lead on counseling following the shooting on Friday,” said Beth Kauffman, Presbyterian Disaster Response coordinator for the Presbytery of New Covenant. “Unfortunately, just like the rest of the country, the news was all about the royal wedding over the weekend, so there’s not a lot of communication right now. Hopefully this week, more information will be coming out.”

As details emerge about the alleged shooter, Kauffman says congregations in the area are angry.

“People are really mad that there have been so many shootings and still no answers. People are obviously very brokenhearted,” she said. “It’s gotten to a point that if you don’t have anything else to say but ‘thoughts and prayers,’ that’s not enough anymore. We need something more than thoughts and prayers to make a change.”

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has been in touch with the leadership of the presbytery.

“A resource document was provided to Presbytery leadership that will be shared with their congregations,” said Jim Kirk, PDA’s associate for national disaster response. “PDA will continue to be in conversation with the presbytery about appropriate next steps.”

Prayer vigils and worship services over the weekend focused on the victims and their families.

“Churches across the presbytery included moments of silence in worship on Sunday. One of the churches we’ve talked to has a student from the school who was not present Friday morning when the shooting took place,” said Lynn Hargrove, stated clerk for the presbytery. “The churches are trying to cope as best they can.”

Authorities say the suspect was armed with a sawed-off shotgun and a .38 caliber handgun that were allegedly obtained from his father.

“Until gun laws are changed, we don’t know what, if anything, will happen. The sad part was hearing a young girl say she didn’t know why it wouldn’t happen at her school,” said Hargrove. “Kids are now growing up asking if their school is going to be next and it’s unbelievable.”

The shooting comes at a time when the Houston area is still reeling from the aftermath of last fall’s hurricane season.

“The impact of this tragic shooting is intensified due to the ongoing challenges resulting from Hurricane Harvey,” added Kirk. “Community and individual resources and resilience are stretched thin.”

In addition to the shootings, the Houston area is also reeling from a chemical plant explosion on Saturday morning that left as many as 22 workers injured. Authorities say a malfunctioning valve is to blame. PDA also reached out to the presbytery to offer assistance following the explosion.

PDA is able to respond quickly to disasters because of gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing and designated gifts. To support PDA’s response to public violence, designate gifts to DR000188.

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