Colorado Megachurch Vows To Move Forward In Aftermath Of Mass Shooting

Monday, December 17th 2007, 7:24 am
By: News On 6

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) _ The leader of a megachurch where a gunman opened fire a week earlier, killing two teenage sisters and wounding three other people, said Sunday that the congregation's trials of the past couple of years were nothing more than tests.

``Last weekend was a test ... but we are passing the test,'' said the Rev. Brady Boyd, New Life Church senior pastor, on a bright, sunny day when snow-capped Pikes Peak could be seen from the church grounds.

Another test came a year ago, Boyd said, when founder the Rev. Ted Haggard was dismissed after a former male escort claimed Haggard paid him over three years for sex. Haggard publicly admitted committing unspecified ``sexual immorality.''

``This is not what this church will be known for,'' Boyd said.

``Our heart is to be a church that gives to people,'' he said. ``We are a group that cares for people, any person.''

That was written on the faces of members of a mostly smiling crowd who sang, clapped and waved as they watched the stage or several large-screen televisions simulcasting the service above them. Some cried. Dozens accepted a call to come to the front if they needed help to deal with the pain.

``All it has done is strengthen us,'' Boyd said at the service, attended by at least 4,000 adults.

Reacting to the shooting and the service, Josh Caldwell, 17, said: ``It's definitely been really rough. But seeing the church continue to grow is an incredible experience. And seeing God move among us.''

Boyd said the church's struggles could be compared to those faced by early Christians. ``In times like this our theology is simple. ... We believe in Christ,'' he said.

Photographs of victims Stephanie Works, 18, and her sister Rachael, 16, adorned the program for services Sunday.

The two were killed when gunman Matthew Murray, armed with an assault rifle, a .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun and a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun, opened fire in the parking lot as a service was letting out. The girls' father and two other people were wounded.

A volunteer security guard shot and wounded Murray, 24, before he turned the gun on himself. Twelve hours earlier and about 65 miles away, police said, Murray killed two staff members of the Youth With a Mission missionary training center in Arvada and wounded two others.

A funeral was held Saturday in Minnesota for one of the Arvada victims, 26-year-old Tiffany Johnson. A memorial service was held earlier in the week in Colorado.

A private service was held Friday in Denver for Murray. A service will be held for the Works sisters Wednesday at New Life.