Denver pastor

AP A man walks on a hill near crosses set up at the memorial to victims of the Aurora, Colo., … Continued

AP

A man walks on a hill near crosses set up at the memorial to victims of the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting, early Friday, July 27, 2012. It was a week ago Friday that a gunman opened fire during a late-night showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” Batman movie, killing 12 and injuring dozens of others.

It’s Thursday morning, July 26. Six days have passed since the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo.

I am standing at the bedside of Steffon Moton on the third floor of the ICU of the Medical Center of Aurora (South).

I am holding the shaking hands of Steffon’s grief-stricken parents, James Washington and Paula Moton. Together we cry out to God for a miracle.

We have all been doing a lot more praying since the shooting.

Our church, The Potter’s House of Denver, sits less than five miles from the Century 16 movie theater. Our sanctuary doors have been open daily since July 20, the day of the rampage.

Our pews are lined daily with masses of people who come together for no other reason than to huddle as a community and to pray and to seek counsel and find solace in the midst of the storm.

My church houses a free professional counseling center where our heroic grief counselors have kicked into high gear standing at-the-ready like therapeutic sentries.

They line the sanctuary walls, ready to offer support to people who are coping with a collective grief that fills every eye with tears and every heart with sadness and hard questions.

The counselors are helping the people walk through the stages of their grief, helping them to cope with the shock, anger, the internal bargaining and depression that comes when a town is confronted with senseless violence and the loss of 12 innocent lives.

My pastoral team has been praying with the people in our pews and at the hospitals.

Trained ministers have been helping ordinary people to confront their fears with faith and teaching them to turn their anger into positive action, under extremely extraordinary circumstances.

Action unites neighbors in the common knowledge that we need each other now more than ever. We are encouraging the people that we can survive even this, if we hold on to one another and hold to our faith.

I am teaching my parishioners and those that come to our daily prayer vigils not to blame God for this tragedy. Rather, the blame is to be placed squarely on the shoulders of the accused gunman, a man who utilized his God-given gift of freewill and volition to inflict so much pain on others.

As pastors, we can offer a solace found in the promise of the Scriptures. We instill in our pastorate that even in the “valley of the shadow of death,” our God has not abandoned his people (Psalm 23:4).


View Photo Gallery: After gunfire killed 12 and injured dozens at a midnight movie screening in Aurora, Colo., residents console one another. The suspect, James Holmes, appeared in court Monday for the first time.

In this our darkest hour, we light candles to honor the lost. We preach hope to the living, because this is what I believe the church is called to do in times like this.

It was at the altar following our Wednesday night service on July 25 that Steffon Moton’s family asked for me to visit their son in the hospital. Early the next morning I grabbed my Bible and went.

Steffon Moton is one of the 58 wounded survivors.

The accused gunmen shot him in the upper arm. The bullet however traveled up his shoulder and into his neck and severed his spine.

Steffon is paralyzed from his shoulders down and dependent upon breathing machines to supply his very next breath.

When I walked into his room Steffon smiled at me from beneath a tangle of ventilation tubes. His handsome brown, 18 year-old face was almost totally concealed beneath a mummy-roll of bandages.

As I stared into his eyes, I was struck by the fact that he is only a few months older than my eldest son.

I began to pray for Steffon like he is my own son. I began to seek heaven fervently for help.

Through tears I thanked God that he is still alive. I thanked God that his family and friends can still kiss him and touch him and talk to him. And I thanked God that his life didn’t end on the floor of that dark theatre.


View Photo Gallery: A look at some of the 12 people who were slain in the July 20 theater shooting in Aurora, Colo.

I thanked God for the Aurora police officers that arrived at the scene so quickly and that the hospital was less than 3 miles away, and that the EMT’s and the hospital staff were trained and ready to save his life, and the lives of so many others.

And then I prayed that God would do what the best of surgeons are not able to do – to repair his spine. I prayed that God would knit back together a spinal column that the gunman’s bullet destroyed. I prayed for Steffon’s healing and restoration.

But my prayer is not just for Steffon Moton, it was also for all of Aurora.

I prayed for the miracle of healing and restoration and that the severed emotional spine of our community would be healed by the hand of the Great Physician and that one day, one day soon, our community would rise and stand up again.

The Rev. Dr. Chris Hill is senior pastor of The Potter’s House of Denver.

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  • SODDI

    Either your god is responsible for ALL things, or he’s not.

    Make up your minds.

  • Sarah Heltz

    If I were you I would just comment on topics in which I had some knowledge.

  • av8or

    It amuses me greatly to see how people after natural and unnatural disasters talk about how thankful they are for how their imaginary omnipotent friend saved their home or family while saying nothing about the neighbor whose home and family were squashed like bugs. But it’s OK. The mysterious deity works in mysterious ways that we can’t understand, and fortunately don’t need to. It’s god’s will, and the shooter’s free will and of course satan is in there somewhere, too. I guess they all work in mysterious ways.

  • OldSnowy

    Sara, if you have “knowledge” of this god of yours, you are the only person alive who does.

  • SODDI

    I have EXACTLY the same factual provable knowledge of god that all great religious leaders and all people of faith do.

    That is to say – ZERO.

  • Rongoklunk

    The only brain that uncritically accepts the god-hypothesis is the child’s brain. Once indoctrinated by religious adults – the child usually becomes religious (and superstitious) for life. It’s a national disgrace the way we indoctrinate the kids to believe the patently silly notion of a skygod, when there’s not even the tiniest scrap of evidence to suggest that such a being exists. Science itself does not accept such an absurd belief…which as far as we know does not exist anywhere except in our imaginations.

  • Secular1

    “I am teaching my parishioners and those that come to our daily prayer vigils not to blame God for this tragedy. Rather, the blame is to be placed squarely on the shoulders of the accused gunman, a man who utilized his God-given gift of freewill and volition to inflict so much pain on others.”

    But of course the killer is to be blamed. Then why do you all claim that nothing happens without your god allowing it happen.? Make up your minds please. Next who is to be blamed when natural disasters happen. You would do well to stopp mout

    As pastors, we can offer a solace found in the promise of the Scriptures. We instill in our pastorate that even in the “valley of the shadow of death,” our God has not abandoned his people (Psalm 23:4″

  • Secular1

    Continuing
    stop mouthing such inanities, and horse scat..

    As pastors you offer nothing but delusional nonsense.

  • ThomasBaum

    SODDI

    You wrote, “Either your god is responsible for ALL things, or he’s not.

    Make up your minds.”

    You do have a point here, if God would not have created creation than not only would the “Aurora, Colo., shooting” not have happened but we would not have happened either and this dialogue would not be happening since none of us would be, to say nothing of the internet on which this dialogue is happening.

    God is responsible for creating everything, except for God that is, and God is also responsible for giving us free will.

    If our free will would allow us to only go up to a point but not beyond than we would be nothing more than puppets on a longer string.

    Some blame God, some blame others, some take responsibility for their actions, we all do wrong.

    Some would disagree with this and say that we can’t rise above our instincts and that we are captives of our biological processes.

    There is a difference between allowing something and forcing something.

    Just because the god of your conception is so petty, does not mean that God is in any way similiar to your conception of god.

  • ThomasBaum

    Rongoklunk

    You wrote, “Science itself does not accept such an absurd belief…”

    How can science have a belief?

    Scientists can have a belief but not science and there are many scientists that believe in God.

  • ThomasBaum

    What do you offer?

  • tony55398

    Why should God do for man what man should do for himself. Isn’t it possible that those individuals or individual, who were supposed to be helping this young man didn’t do his or her job, not to mention the lax gun laws in this country.

  • mon2002

    The question Tony, is: If god is all-powerful and all-merciful, why does suffering exist?

    Why would a being that played a personal role in answering prayers not prevent this shooting from happening?

  • DavidJ9

    As long as you don’t give credit to God for randomly saving a few people, I don’t have a problem with the idea that God should not be blamed. But then God seems to either not exist or be totally indifferent to humanity.

  • PhillyJimi1

    ThomasBaum you can’t have it both ways.

    If your god gives us freewill then why pray? But your theology also teaches that your god has a plan for everyone and everything happens for a reason.

    You can’t pick and choose. When something bad happend is it our freewill that is at fault. When something good happens then it is god blessing us and over riding our freewill. That logic is a big pile of stink.

  • ThomasBaum

    Just because something “bad” happens to someone does not necessarily mean that our freewill is at fault just as when something “good” happens is it necessarily God’s blessing, seeing as when something that seems “bad” on the surface may in the long run actually be good and something that seems “good” on the surface may actually end up being not that at all.

    There is more to life than logic and there is more to being a human being than just a brain, some may think that we are no more than some fancy biological machine but I don’t.

    You wrote, “If your god gives us freewill then why pray? But your theology also teaches that your god has a plan for everyone and everything happens for a reason.”

    There can be many reasons to pray, one of these could be that one knows that one is not a know-it-all.

    Some seem to look at God as the Great Dictation Machine in the Sky and/or the Great Vending Machine in the Sky, I don’t, some that believe in God and many that don’t believe in God seem to look at prayer as only, gimme, gimme, gimme, more stuff, more stuff, sad but true, we all need things but there are also non-things that are important.

    There is a big difference, to put it mildly, between God knowing everything and us being nothing more than puppets on God’s strings and many that have such a puny conception of God, believers and non-believers alike, can’t “rationally” come to grips with this and I can not only understand that they can’t but I would say that with our finite minds, we never will.

    You also wrote, “When something good happens then it is god blessing us and over riding our freewill”

    God can not override our free will, if God could, than it would not be free will and this is God’s doing.

    This may seem to be a “limitation” on a God that is Omnipotent but it is God’s choice to put this limitation upon Himself, seeing as if God did not choose to do it this way we would be nothing but automatons, puppets on a string.

    To put it mildly, this can make for a messy world and the wor

  • Joel Hardman

    I appreciate the author’s efforts to heal the community. At the same time, it’s silly to thank god for the actions of responders while absolving god of any blame for the actions of the murderer. God gets the credit, but none of the blame? Why?

  • ThomasBaum

    OldSnowy

    You wrote, “Sara, if you have “knowledge” of this god of yours, you are the only person alive who does.”

    If Sara has any “knowledge” of Who is referred to as God the Father and Who is referred to as the Holy Spirit than she is not the only person alive who does,

  • Ros

    Please continue to pray with my Cousin Paula, and Steffon and the rest of the family. Even though we are miles apart our hearts are heavy right along with their hearts. When they hurt we hurt. She just lost her Mom, my Aunt just a month ago and then this. I pray that the Lord gives her family strength and as for the shooter, we will definitely have to give it to God….. Love you Family!!!

  • Secular1

    Why should I offer anything, at all? What this idiot is doing is, nothing but hope filled inanities. Which every one knows is rubbish and there is no basis for that stupid hope. This is the best I can say of him. But my more realistic view of this pond scum could not be printed in this blog.

  • ThomasBaum

    I feel sorry for you, like it or not, we are all fellow human beings.

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