'We need God more than ever right now'

Posted Sunday, Apr. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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WEST -- Some have lost family; others have lost homes. Some are injured; all are tired.

But on Sunday, four days after a devastating explosion ripped their town apart, the people of West took time to worship God, searching for solace and peace after a week that provided little of either.

"West is a community of strong faith. We are a town of believers," said Ranae Knust, a 30-year resident. "...We need God more than ever right now."

Knust was attending services at First United Church of Christ, which opened its doors to members of West Brethren Church. West Brethren was damaged in Wednesday's fertilizer plant explosion, which killed 14 and injured dozens.

Inside the church, people hugged and clutched Bibles and drank coffee from plastic foam cups.

Parishioners of the two congregations traded stories of damage to homes and updates on injured friends and relatives.

They sat together on green-cushioned pews, some clasping hands and wrapping arms around one another.

Some wore dresses and slacks, and others showed up in bluejeans and white T-shirts that said "Support West."

Teresa Kasik Orr, a lifelong resident of West, said she has barely slept for days, spending her time volunteering at the community center. But she did not dream of missing this service.

"This is where I need to be," Orr said. "I believe in God, and I know he had a hand in this. I know he has a plan for us."

Geoff Davidson, a recent graduate of Baylor's Truett Theological Seminary who presided over part of Sunday's service, cautioned members against searching for answers to the destruction in West and at the Boston Marathon.

"In crises like this, when we come up with pat answers and easy cliches about suffering, we fail you as Christians and we fail God," he told parishioners. "God leaves us without answers, but he wants to carry us."

Curtis Holland, pastor at West Brethren, said God had placed a detour sign in front of the people of West and the church.

"When life is confusing and full of anxiety, when we have no idea where are going," Holland said, "all we can say is, 'Jesus, take the wheel.'"

Preaching from trailer

At First Baptist Church of West, Pastor John Crowder gathered with his congregation, just as in previous weeks.

There were singing, prayers and a sermon.

But this Sunday morning, Crowder preached from a trailer, and his congregation sat in white folding chairs in a field blocks from the volunteer fire station.

Like West Brethren, First Baptist was damaged in the explosion. Authorities were not allowing church members back into the neighborhood Sunday morning.

"What happened Wednesday was awful, but God is bigger than all of this," Crowder told his church on a sun-splashed morning. "God is our refuge and strength."

Many members wept during the 50-minute service in a field that is used as a parking lot during the town's famous Westfest celebration.

The pastor of the 250-member church said at least five members were seriously injured in the blast and 12 to 15 others were hurt.

Twelve homes that belonged to church members were destroyed.

Crowder said Sunday that the service was needed, no matter where it was held.

"We're a family, and we need to be together," the pastor said. "During these times, we needed to worship."

Sarah Bahari, 817-390-7056

Twitter: @sarahbfw

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