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Making a sense of what happened in Uvalde, with faith and community

Sunday's service at Barnett Chapel United Methodist Church presented plenty of moments of reflections, with a tinge of frustration and anger.

Making sense of what happened in Uvalde

Barnett Chapel United Methodist Church Pastor Rev. Maurice Washington. Photo by Louis Amestoy/The Kerr County Lead.

Rev. Maurice Washington wanted to comfort those who felt moved by the massacre of Uvalde elementary school children and those who were equally devastated by a shooting in Buffalo, N.Y.

It has become a regular conversation in America — the aftermath of a horrific mass shooting. The grief. The stress. The anguish.

During a prayer service Sunday at Barnett Chapel United Methodist Church, Washington sought to comfort those who struggle to make sense of the senseless. We may never know the shooter's motivations in Uvalde, but we know that the suspect in Buffalo had a clear intent — to kill Black people.

Both shooters had something in common — they legally purchased their weapons to commit terror. In the case of the Uvalde shooter, he came armed with two rifles and more than 300 rounds of ammunition. He fired more than 100 rounds, shooting 37 people, killing 19 children and two teachers.

"I pray what we do here for all will provide comfort for our minds and soul," Washington said. "We can bind up our broken hearts and seek peace to our troubled minds, especially for the parents and grandparents."

Washington could have stopped there in his sermon, but he didn't.

"I want us to leave here afflicted," he said. "Please, Lord, afflict us. Yes, Lord, make us leave here angry. Oh, Christians talking about being angry? For Christians, it's hard to wrap your head around it because we need to be angry that this keeps happening over and over and over again.

"Well, how do you make that Biblical? Jesus was angry when he took a cord and whipped the moneychangers out of the Temple. As his disciple, I can be angry too. I saw we leave her afflicted. Angry enough to go to the polls to vote out cowards who will not vote to end the access to assault rifles. As Gov. Abbott says, we need to do something about mental health, but why make it easy for the mentally ill to have assault weapons? That makes no sense to me. You talk about pro-life, and yet you allow an 18-year-old to get an assault rifle to end a life. Where I come from, East Austin, that's not common sense."

Kerrville Mayor Judy Eychner speaks at Barnett Chapel on Sunday. Photo by Louis Amestoy/The Kerr County Lead.

It was a mood setter for a service that featured speakers who expressed fear, outrage and a struggle to make sense of what happened in Uvalde. The service was attended by Kerrville Mayor Judy Eychner, Kerrville City Councilman Roman Garcia and Kerr County Sheriff Larry Leitha. Despite the frustrations of those in attendance, Leitha and one of his deputies received a hearty round of applause for their presence.

Kerrville City Councilman Roman Garcia. Photo by Louis Amestoy/The Kerr County Lead.

Garcia spoke about the need for unity versus the cloud of division — something that seems to be roiling underneath.

"Our country has faced so many challenges in the last few years," Garcia said. "Yet, time and time again, our community has shown how resilient we are."

However, the resiliency from one mass shooting after another continues to fray at the nerves of many, including in Texas, where the legislature and Abbott loosened gun laws.

"I have no words of encouragement," said Cristy Jackson, one of the speakers. "I need encouragement."

Cristy Jackson gave a tearful talk about encouragement. Photo by Louis Amestoy/The Kerr County Lead.

Jackson is a school librarian and said she struggles to assure children they are safe. It was a common theme throughout the service.

Rev. Charlie Hornes, the chaplain at Schreiner University and Mo-Ranch, explained how the scale of Uvalde's May 24 tragedy reached Kerrville in many ways, including those who lost loved ones. Her prayer touched upon those lost, but she rejected that this was part of "God's plan."

Photo by Louis Amestoy/The Kerr County Lead.

"We know this is not part of your plan," Hornes said. "We know this is not your will. We know you don't need more innocent children as angels in Heaven. So, Lord, take those words out of people's mouths."

The organizer of Sunday's service, Natarsha Sanders, was the final speaker.

Natarsha Sanders. Photo by Louis Amestoy/The Kerr County Lead.

"My question is where is the perfect love because my baby is afraid," Sanders said of her nine-year-old nephew. "And so his mother let him stay home. We have a responsibility to speak for those who cannot speak."

The service was capped by Konrad Wert and Clifton Fifer singing.


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