Churches respond to shooting

Prayer vigils, youth services, counseling support provided

BY JIM SKILLINGTON | January 25, 2018

Within hours of the school shooting Tuesday in Benton, KY, churches throughout the region had opened their doors for prayer.

On Wednesday evening, three area churches held special programs and worship services also had trauma counselors available.

Early Tuesday morning two students were killed and 18 others injured when a 15-year-old student walked into an atrium at Marshall County High School and began shooting. The alleged shooter was arrested at the scene and has been charged with murder and attempted murder. Police said Wednesday they were attempting to determine a motive.

The incident occurred during "Spirit Week" at the high school. A basketball homecoming event had been scheduled for Friday.

Quoting from Lamentations 1, Bishop Bill Gafkjen of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church called for prayers for the people of Benton adding, "Children killing children, again...Surely, God weeps with another weeping city."

United Methodist Bishop Bill McAilly of the Nashville Episcopal Area quoted Psalm 46:1 "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble," while thanking the response of Benton area churches who reached out to help their neighbors. "Prayers are being offered constantly for the many who have been affected," he wrote.

In a message posted on the high school's Website, Trent Lovett, superintendent of the county school system urged families to "hold your children close tonight as you gather together at vigils, churches, and homes and please bear with us as we struggle to return to some sense of normalcy." County schools were closed Wednesday. Elementary and middle school students returned to class Thursday in an attempt to return to some sense of normalcy according to school officials. No decision has been made as to when the high schol will reopen.

Decrying the violence in the small Kentucky town of approximately 4,000, Gov. Matt Bevin told reporters at a Tuesday news conference that the incident was "heartbreaking."

"This is a wound that is going to take a long time to heal, and for some in this community will never fully heal," he said.

In addition to faith-based counselors, a counseling center for the general public was open Wednesday and Thursday and a family resource center was set up in the local extension office to help students and staff replace medical items lost during the shooting.

The Kentucky Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau has set up a fund for donations that will be split amongst "the victims" of the tragedy.

According to the New York Times Tuesday's shooting was the 11th public violence incident on a school campus this month. A Texas student was wounded just the day before in a separate incident.

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