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Mass shooting strikes TX church

A nearby pastor who also serves as chaplain for ATF noted "the bravery of faith communities in the midst of extreme horror."

November 5, 2017

"We pray for those who will face rebuilding their lives after such deep loss...Each death by violence diminishes each one of us"

—Bishop Robert Schnase, Rio Texas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church

At least 25 church-goers were killed Sunday as they worshipped at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX. It was the second fatal U.S. church shooting in six weeks and the most deadly to strike a House of Worship in recent history.

Sutherland Springs is a small town about 40 miles east of San Antonio. The church's Facebook page includes photos of an active, ethnically diverse, youth ministry.

According to local police, a gunman approached the church about 20 minutes after the worship service began. In a Sunday evening news conference, Freeman Martin of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said the shooter began shooting at the building from the outside before entering the building. In addition to those killed, more than a dozen others were seriously wounded.

First Baptist's pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife were out of town when the attack occurred. However, his 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, was among those killed.

The Rev. Peter Aguilar, the pastor of Floresville United Methodist Church and a chaplain for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, was the first chaplain on the scene. He was taken by the first responders, "who worked with diligence and attention while maintaining their humanity." He also noted "the bravery of faith communities in the midst of extreme horror."

Aguilar said the small community of 400 had come together at the community center within an hour, bringing food, water, and support.

The Texas Salvation Army said Sunday evening that it was sending a mobile kitchen and its Emotional Spiritual Care team to Sutherland Springs.

Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, called Aguilar upon hearing the news to offer the support of the Conference. Schnase said, "This was an outrageous, senseless, and tragic act. We pray God's blessings on families, friends, and the entire community. We pray for those who will face rebuilding their lives after such deep loss. We pray for those who were injured, that God's healing grace may be upon them."

"Each death by violence diminishes each one of us," Schnase continued.

The pastor of nearby River Oaks Church, Paul Buford, said some members of his congregation have family members that attended First Baptist. He told USA Today "We are pulling together as a community. We are holding up as best we can."

Many of the victims were also family members of Floresville UMC members. The church was also in ministry together with First Baptist. When Floresville UMC started a food pantry, First Baptist members were the first to jump in and help.

The Floresville church held a prayer service Sunday evening at 6:00.

"We had to respond," said Aguilar. "Where else can you try to find strength and meaning in times of chaos?"

Six weeks ago, on Sept. 24, one person was killed and seven others wounded at a church in Antioch, TN.

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