Andrea Buzzell, a First Christian Church youth group volunteer, said the recent church shootings in Arvada and Colorado Springs are attacks against Christianity. Now is not the time for Christians to be afraid, she said.

Photo by Jerry Raehal

Andrea Buzzell, a First Christian Church youth group volunteer, said the recent church shootings in Arvada and Colorado Springs are attacks against Christianity. Now is not the time for Christians to be afraid, she said.

Unshaken

Christian leaders and government officials say no change in services after weekend shootings

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Andrea Buzzell spent Monday morning on the phone with her college roommate, Brandy, a Youth With A Mission student in Colorado Springs.

Brandy told Buzzell, a 22-year-old Craig resident, about being in the emergency room with her friend who was shot in both legs by a gunman who opened fire on a YWAM dormitory in Arvada early Sunday.

The doctors initially told Brandy her friend would be paralyzed.

"They're releasing him tonight, and he's gonna be walking," Buzzell said. "It was a pretty big miracle."

Buzzell volunteers with the First Christian Church youth group in Craig, a twice-per-week chance to interact with her congregation's young people on Wednesday and Sunday nights.

At Sunday's meeting, no one talked about the shooting at the Arvada Christian missionary base, or the shooting at a Colorado Springs Christian church, which both happened earlier that day.

The group had other things planned, and it would be wrong to change church services because of a violent attack against Christianity, Buzzell said.

"Changing services, or anything like that, we won't do anything like that," she said. "At least how I perceive it, and how I think most of the other volunteers perceive it, this is an attack against the faith of Christ. We don't need to hide. There is something going right with Christianity that there is something evil out there trying to destroy it."

Local church leaders also felt changing services because of recent events would be a disservice to their followers.

"I'm going to do my best to not allow what is happening in our society change the way I do things," said Steven Wallace, Ridgeview Church of God pastor. "Worship service is the most important part of life. It's a time when people can lay down their problems of that week and come and open their hearts to Christ.

"I count that very sacred."

The shootings this weekend are endemic of a culture that is getting more sinful and angry, Wallace said.

"I think it is a reality that no matter where you are, things like this can happen," he said. "Our society has become (something with) so much sin, so many problems, so many hurting people."

It's a society that looks at violence as an answer to its problems, said Randy Dollins, a priest at St. Michael Catholic Church.

Being a virtuous person is not something that can be decided one day, he added.

"I often talk to my youth about building up virtue," Dollins said. "A virtue is a habit. It's something we repeat.

"The same can be said for sin. If we are doing things in our entertainment, if our videogames are so violent, sometimes that carries over into our lives."

Shortly before finding out about the shootings, Wallace discussed the possibility of violence with some of his congregation's young people, he said.

"I told them, the Bible says our life is like a vapor," Wallace said. "As long as we know we are ready to meet the Lord, these things do not worry us."

Youths are important to Wallace, and he does not want the community to be afraid of them or try to control them, he said. Those actions can push kids away, and into the arms of anyone willing to listen, such as a gang, Wallace added.

"The churches need to realize the young people today are not the church of tomorrow, they're the church of today," Wallace said. "If we don't reach out to our kids, they'll reach out to someone that will love them."

The community should be more aware of the lives its youths are leading, Wallace added. Owning a firearm is not a license to take it anywhere.

"A lot of these are ranch kids, and they carry guns in their cars to shoot varmints and coyotes and what-not," Wallace said. "But it is still against the law to carry their guns in their cars on school property. By and large, our community does need to be concerned."

But, it is not firearms that should be the most concerning, Wallace said.

"What we really need to be concerned about is how our youth treat one another," he said. "When you keep harassing someone, or bullying someone, they're only going to take it for so long."

Buzzell and Dollins are not too concerned with firearms, they said.

Like Wallace, neither was born and raised in Moffat County, but they have lived here for a while and gotten used to the idea of people carrying firearms.

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray also thinks concern over gun control could be reaching too far.

"What would you do to change (to gun laws) that wouldn't change the fundamentals of our country?" Gray said.

The issue of security at the Moffat County Courthouse, where Gray works each day, has been raised in the past. There are no plans to install new security measures at this time, Gray said.

"There are many things we can do that don't cost anything and don't prevent access from the public to public buildings," Gray said.

Last year, judicial districts hired some consultants to look at upgrading security in local courthouses, Gray said. They recommended starting with small steps - such as training employees for crisis management and locking doors at night - and working up from there.

Moffat County plans to follow that prescribed path, Gray said.

The Moffat County School District wants to be proactive but also acknowledge that if schools are going to allow community involvement, the campuses have to remain somewhat open, Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan said.

Schools could lock the doors at 8 a.m. each day and not let anyone in or out, but then parents can't come to see their children and the students are locked away from the world, Sheridan added.

"We want to minimize (danger) and make schools as safe as possible," Sheridan said. "Bottom line, we are very concerned about safety, but we also need to be realistic if we're going to have any community involvement in our schools."

Security was a main issue in the recent bond issue, which passed Nov. 6. As part of that package, entrances will be redesigned so that a school employee can selectively allow people into a waiting area before being allowed into the school.

From the pastors, priests and volunteers, to the county commissioner to the School District assistant superintendent, each one said the kind of violence seen in Colorado during the weekend is "a sign of our times."

Gray echoed the sentiments of other Christian faithful.

"My message to all those who believe as Christians is to pray for the victims and the perpetrator," he said. "It was a tragedy."

Collin Smith can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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