Coloradans bow in prayer for shooting victims

1:24 PM, Jul 22, 2012   |    comments
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There were shouts of joy. Tears of relief for loved ones who survived. And questions from those who faiths were shaken by the massacre.

Congregations sent up prayers for the survivors and the relatives of the dead. Churches sent out social-media appeals for neighbors who wanted to join in remembrance. Elderly churchgoers at an aging Presbyterian church within walking distance near suspected shooter James Holmes' apartment joined in prayer, though none had ever met him.

The prayers came in different languages, but the message was the same - hope and faith in the face of unimaginable evil.

"You're not alone, and you will get through it," said the Rev. Kenneth Berve, pastor at Grant Avenue United Methodist Church and a witness to Friday's horrors. "We can't let fear and anger take control of us."

Berve's 19-year-old stepdaughter Emma Goos was in the movie theater, and Berve sped to the theater after she called to say someone had started shooting and that a lot of people were dead.

When Berve and his wife arrived, they saw a horror they couldn't have imagined. Teens whose white shirts were red from blood. Children screaming for their parents. A man who'd been shot in the head asking strangers if he had a hole in his forehead.

Goos and Berve shared their story Sunday with congregants.

"The blood - it wasn't just on the sidewalk. It was everywhere," said Judy Goos, Berve's wife, whose daughter survived the massacre and called Goos and Berve. During the service, Goos wiped away tears. After communion, she knelt at the altar in prayer. Others lit votive candles in remembrance.

Goos' daughter wasn't at the service. After showering off the tear gas smell, and sleeping through most of Saturday, she wanted to go to a state park.

"She just needed to get out. Get away," Berve said after the service.

Sunday's services weren't the first mass prayers for the victims and survivors, of course. Thousands gathered the night of the shooting in a parking lot by the movie theater. Mourners heaped flowers on photos of the deceased and collectively sang the Lord's Prayer. A few blocks away, new Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila led a mass where prayers were offered in English, Spanish and Latin.

"The heart of our Father is stronger than the bullets that killed 12 people," Aquila told mourners.

At Grant Avenue Methodist, where parishioners showered hugs on Goos Sunday, many talked about Emma's friend A.J. Boik, one of the victims. Goos talked of comforting Boik's girlfriend.

Church members abandoned the usual handshakes of greeting in the service and hugged each other instead. They even added a surprising song to the beginning of the service, a group "Happy Birthday" to a congregant.

Berve told church members there was nothing wrong with singing the birthday song.

"Celebrating another year of life is something that we need to be doing right now," he said, then joined in the song.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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