WV town seeks solace

The sound of voices singing "Amazing Grace" drifted outside the Queens United Methodist Church on a clear Wednesday night.

BY HEATHER MOYER | TALLMANSVILLE, W. Va. | January 5, 2006



"Though they have been crushed emotionally and hurt, that great faith, hope and love is still there,"

—Rev. Mark Flynn


The sound of voices singing "Amazing Grace" drifted outside the Queens United Methodist Church on a clear Wednesday night. Inside, church members gathered to hold a service in honor of the lost miners.

"During the past several days it's been like an emotional roller coaster ride," said the Rev. Jack Catalano, pastor of Queens United Methodist Church (QUMC). "Tragedies like this hit home for everyone."

All around the Buckhannon and Tallmansville area Wednesday night, churches held prayer services and vigils to remember the 12 miners that died after an explosion early Monday. At QUMC, pastors from several local churches joined in with the congregation to pray and console each other during the traumatic time.

"Now is the time to begin the long healing process," said Catalano.

Pastors read scriptures and led the congregation in song. They also offered up plans for the healing process in the community. "We must help those families in their time of need, that must be our primary goal," said Catalano.

Others said the mining tragedy was a reminder. "Times like this let us know how fragile and precious life is," said the Rev. Dennis Sparks, executive director of the West Virginia Council of Churches. Sparks also announced that his organization was now accepting donations on behalf of the miners' families via the "Sago Miners Assistance Fund."

The Rev. Mark Flynn, pastor of Buckhannon's First United Methodist Church, spoke about his non-stop work with the miners' families. Flynn had been with the families and friends of the miners since Monday morning, offering spiritual counseling. He praised the cooperation amongst the town's clergy in helping the families cope.

While sharing about his time with the families - something he called "a privilege" - Flynn said he was most impressed by everyone's strength.

"I met some people of great faith, hope and love. Though they have been crushed emotionally and hurt, that great faith, hope and love is still there," he noted.

As church members shed tears during the stories about the families, others stood up to offer their own coping words during the service. Some even knew the lost miners personally. "I am thankful there's a God at a moment like this," said one parishioner.

Around Buckhannon, churches are all preparing to meet the families' continued needs. The Holy Rosary Catholic Church also held a Wednesday night mass in honor of the miners. "We also enacted our prayer chain," said Rue Thompson, a deacon at Holy Rosary. "I know we'll also help out as we can later on. Everybody wants to do something."

At the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, administrator Debbie Leigh said she is fielding non-stop calls about how people can help. The same is happening at her own church, Buckhannon's First Baptist Church. "Churches from across the country are calling in to say that they're praying for us," said Leigh. "We even got a call from a woman in a Montana town that had had a mining accident years ago. She wanted to tell us to not give up that hope."

Those words of encouragement have only contributed to the community spirit in and around Buckhannon. While Leigh says the entire experience has been "devastating," she said the community is pulling together like a family.

"Now we're just waiting until we find out what else we can do for those families."


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