February 5, 2013 | 3:22 p.m.
By Michelle Westlund, Communications Specialist
Five pastors with Bethel connections are working to bring comfort, hope, and healing in the aftermath of the December 14 shootings of 20 school children and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Brian Mowrey ’01, S’09 and Craig Mowrey S’06 serve on the leadership team at Walnut Hill Community Church, along with Adam DePasquale and Scott Shockley, who are both current students in Bethel Seminary’s Master of Arts in Transformational Leadership (MATL) program. Tim Huber, also a Bethel MATL student, is Walnut Hill’s pastor of worship and the arts. Walnut Hill is a network of five evangelical churches serving more than 3,500 people in western Connecticut, with a main campus located just 10 minutes from Newtown. “It is a very emotional time for us,” says DePasquale. “We are very aware of the fact that everything in our community has changed. We pray that God will give us the strength and ability to be His hands, feet, and voice.”
As they seek to embody Christ to a grief-stricken community, the pastors have prayed with families who lost children, including four families from their own church, where 500 people gathered on the night of the tragedy to intercede for families, first responders, and counselors. The church established a Sandy Hook relief fund to meet community, counseling, and school needs, and also hosted author Philip Yancey, who spent time with staff members and grieving families and spoke at two public forums on “Where Is God When It Hurts?” Walnut Hill was the site of the memorial service for Dylan Hockley, one of the children killed in the shootings. Dylan’s parents “opened the service to the public and really wanted to honor their son’s short life,” says DePasquale. More than 900 people attended.
In the midst of a community’s anguish and outrage, DePasquale sees opportunities to address hard questions and to offer comfort and healing. “The past few weeks have been incredibly difficult for us as a community,” says DePasquale, “but we have seen and felt God’s presence in amazing ways. While the event that took place is nothing short of evil, I can already see how God is working in the midst of the tragedy. While we are in many ways feeling exhausted, our staff is greatly encouraged as we share stories of how we see God at work.”
Read more of the five pastors’ stories, learn what Bethel theologians say about the tragedy, and find out how to talk to your kids about it, all in the upcoming issue of Bethel Magazine, arriving on campus and in the mail in early March.