- Baptist Press - https://www.baptistpress.com -

Church’s worship moved to park across street from grieving school

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SPRINGFIELD, Ore. (BP)–ValleyHills Community Church drew about 150 worshipers for Sunday worship May 24 in a park across the street from Thurston High School, site of a shooting frenzy May 21 which left two Springfield, Ore., teens dead and 22 others injured.
ValleyHills, a new Southern Baptist congregation, ordinarily meets in the auditorium and cafeteria at Thurston High. Since the school was still a yellow-taped active crime scene, the church was not permitted to meet there.
More than 50 media organizations were on hand to document ValleyHill’s worship in the park, including all the major U.S. television news networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox and MSNBC plus several Portland and Seattle television and radio stations, in addition to newspaper reporters and photographers.
Pastor Larry Browning preached from John 16:33 NIV: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The only offering taken was for the families of the victims, generating $800, which will be used for food vouchers given by a local agency to victims’ families.
“Many in the media participated in the offering,” Willamette Valley director of missions Bill Phillips said. “That impressed me. They wanted to and we went out of our way to allow them.”
Among the Southern Baptists on hand to counsel as needed in addition to Phillips were Northwest Baptist Convention mission ministries strategist Gary Floyd, NWBC church starting strategist Bevan McWhirter and Paul Hamilton, a Southern Baptist hospital chaplain from The Regional Medical Center of Orangeburg, S.C. He is a member of a national crisis intervention team who was in Springfield because of the school shooting.
ValleyHills provided a reserved area for the media, and several of them thanked church leaders for that thoughtfulness. In his closing prayer, Phillips specifically prayed for the media and emergency services personnel. Later, several media representatives expressed their appreciation for a worship service in which it was recognized they too were having difficulty coping with such a senseless tragedy.