Town's residents turn to churches for solace
Published: Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 11:13 p.m.
The instant he saw the police lights, James Croft's sermon changed.
Croft, who was scheduled to preach to the First Baptist Church on Wednesday night, knew as soon as he saw the lights and barricades at State Roads 121 and 231 that something awful had happened. So he started to think about hope.
There are at least two dozen churches in Lake Butler, Croft said, and most hold regular prayer services on Wednesday nights. Many Lake Butler residents sought comfort in those services on Wednesday evening, with doors opening for worshippers just hours after seven people were killed and eight others were injured in a crash involving a school bus, a semi and a car.
In the First Baptist Church, Croft started by praying for the families.
"There are going to be people in our community finding out tonight about great loss," Croft said, speaking to an audience of about 30 people. "This is going to have some far-reaching effects in our community."
Next, they prayed for the victims, both remembering those who had died and praying for peace for those who were still alive.
Croft and other church members prayed for the drivers of the bus and the car and the truck, for the emergency workers who'd seen death and for the teachers who would have to answer difficult questions in school the next day.
They prayed for answers, voicing the life-and-death questions tragedy evokes.
"There are a lot of tragedies these days, and it's hard to know how to take them," said Deacon Don Pettit. "Do you take them as a joy, like the woman earlier whose child was not on that bus today? Or as sorrow, because someone else's child was?"
Finally, they prayed for hope.
"Union County is going to need, in the days and weeks and months ahead, a lot of hope," Croft said. "Tonight, there will be a lot of tears shed here. Tomorrow, when school reconvenes, a lot of people will learn for the first time about what they've lost. I don't know why God lets certain things happen. I do know that his grace is enough to get us through. So tonight, we have hope."
A chorus of "amens" rang through the church.
Amy Reinink can be reached at 374-5088 or Reinina@gvillesun.com.
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