Emotions are running high in the city of Chardon, Ohio, where a gunman went on a horrific shooting spree at Chardon High School on Monday that has resulted in the death of three students and the wounding of two others. But as members of the community mourn, area pastors have banded together to lend an ear, help residents with the grieving process and show people that there is hope in God.
First Baptist Church of Painesville is located several miles away from Chardon, but when yesterday's attack occurred, Pastor Peter McCurdy knew he had to do something.
As a child, McCurdy experienced a terrifying gun incident of his own. When he was about 9-years-old, he was nearly shot when a man who had been stalking his family fired a gun at him from just outside his boyhood home.
By the "grace of God," McCurdy said, the bullet changed its trajectory when it went through the window casing and missed him by about three feet. He believes that the feelings he felt after that incident are similar to what Chardon High School students are feeling today.
"In a home or a school you always sort of have this expectation of safety. And right now that is just ripped from them, and it is a very...insecure, terrifying state to be in," he told The Christian Post on Tuesday.
On Monday evening his church offered a prayer vigil that was attended by about 100 people. Three other area pastors helped with the vigil, and they took turns praying for individuals and reading comforting Bible verses. Four students from Chardon High were among those who participated in the vigil.
"You could tell they walked in heavy, and they left a little more touched and not so overwhelmed," said McCurdy.
McCurdy says it is okay for people to be upset, and even mad, with God over the shooting. In the Psalms, even David showed "sheer anger" toward God at times, he said, and since God already knows everyone's emotions "there's no point in hiding it."
He also pointed out that even Jesus Christ mourned at the tomb of his friend Lazarus.
"You really need to begin to understand that the church has a place for mourning, and even Jesus himself wept," he said.
Jeff Johnson, the lead pastor of Tripoint Church in Chardon, said he hopes to show the area's youth that they can find true hope in God following the tragedy.
Johnson's church has teamed up with several others from various denominations to form Crave 631 Youth Ministries, a youth group made up of teenagers whose home churches are too small to have youth groups of their own.
The youth group's leaders will offer guidance to the hurting students at Wednesday's Crave 631 gathering. They also hope to get the father of a Columbine High School shooting victim to address the youth group via Skype, although nothing has been confirmed yet.
"The only answer, the only hope for this kind of tragedy, is to acknowledge that there's sin in the world, and people make freewill choices that are horrible, and God is the only solution to getting back into a loving relationship," said Johnson.
Pastor Chris McCreight of Pilgrim Christian Church in Chardon told CP that he was eating breakfast when he heard about the shootings. He immediately became concerned for the safety of the students in his congregation that attend Chardon High School.
He exchanged text messages with some of the students while they were still inside of the school while it was in lock-down, and they were all safe. He says they didn't see the attacks occur, but they heard the shots in the distance.
McCreight later met with some of the students after they had left the school, though they didn't say much.
"We just kind of sat there," he said. He later stated, "Our minds weren't processing things yet...it's just disbelief, and confusion, bewilderment."
The Chardon Ministerial Alliance, which McCreight is a part of, is hosting a prayer service Tuesday night at The Church of St. Mary in Chardon.
"We will process these things together and we will...find comfort together," he said.