Aurora Churches Tout Love, Forgiveness In Wake Of Shooting

Services Focus On Healing After Movie Theater Killings

A litany of prayers -- preaching love and forgiveness rather than condemnation -- were heard across Aurora Sunday morning.

At Aurora Hills Baptist Church, assistant pastor Zac Clark spent part of the service talking about the parents of James Holmes -- the 24-year-old man who was taken into custody after a shooting at Century 16 early Friday morning.

"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."

He said what Holmes' parents need now is comfort and prayers -- much the same as relatives of the 12 people killed. While he hopes justice will be served in this case, he told the crowd it wasn't their place to judge.

Clark was grateful that some of the members of his youth group who had planned to attend the premiere 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 gathered for the morning's two services honoring those victims lost Friday.

"The message was really just that," Bishop Kevin Foreman said about the church's "We Will Rise" service.

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.

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.

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.

On Friday, Foreman said, he spoke with the mayor's office and Aurora Police Department to see what they needed.

"I knew we needed to get to work," he said Sunday after the service. "Not talk, but actually do something."

As a result, the 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.

Foreman said it was too early for him to talk about forgiveness in connection with the shooting for several reasons. Not enough is known about the case at this time, he said, and people sometimes interpret forgiveness as a sign to those suffering to get over their grief.

With the crisis unfolding just 48 hours ago -- 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.

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. On Friday, he and five other church members were at Gateway High School with families as they waited for news.

Mostly, they just listened.

"You're bearing their burdens with them," Hirsch said.

A group of 34 young adults from the church were at the theater that night -- including at least one young man who knew AJ Boik, one of the victims. Both Calvary and Aurora Hills are raising money, all of which will go toward victim's families.

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."

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