East Tennessee churchgoers pray for Newtown victims

East Tennessee churchgoers pray for Newtown victims

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"Could happen at Bearden. Could happen at West Town Mall. Could happen anywhere you and I go," said DeFur. "Could happen at Bearden. Could happen at West Town Mall. Could happen anywhere you and I go," said DeFur.
It was with a heavy heart that Pastor Stephen DeFur began the Sunday service at Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Knoxville. It was with a heavy heart that Pastor Stephen DeFur began the Sunday service at Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Knoxville.

By HAYLEY HARMON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The people of Newtown, Conn. are still reeling from the school shooting Friday that claimed 28 lives, 20 of them children just six and seven years old.

Since then, Americans across the country have been offering their condolences.

Many churches dedicated their Sunday services to praying for the victims and their families, including a number of churches in East Tennessee.

It was with a heavy heart that Senior Associate Pastor Stephen DeFur began the Sunday service at Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Knoxville.

In his sermon, he reflected on the events of the shooting.

"The report just kept growing and you start seeing and hearing the news of these children that have lost their lives. Man, it's really hard," said Rev. DeFur.

The grief reaches far beyond the city limits of Newtown.

"When you started hearing about 6 and 7 year old kids. My three boys couldn't get home from school fast enough," said DeFur, speaking to the hundreds of church members filling the sanctuary.

They hurt for the victim's families.

"The parents who dropped their kids off, who've done it a thousand times before," he said.

And the first responders.

"In the midst of all that chaos, who had the courage to run into the building."

And the doctors and nurses who waited at the hospital.

"To think about them just standing there and no children are coming."

And now on Sunday morning, they think of the pastors of the churches in Newtown.

"They're trying to figure out, what do you say to a group of people who have literally had life ripped from their fingertips," said DeFur.

This tragedy hit everyone in this congregation, bringing many of them to tears.

"Thinking about the families whose lives have been so tragically changed," said Jenny Stripling, a member of Cokesbury.

"My heart goes out for every parent there who's not gonna spend Christmas with their child," said member David Easterling.

They're at a loss for words, but the few words they can say, they're putting into prayer.

"Thousands of prayers. Across this nation, thousands of prayers for peace and for healing for those families. It is a lot of prayers and God hears them all," said Stripling.

They prayed for everyone involved.

"We pray for that community. We pray for peace for every parent who is coming to the realization that the world they want their children to grow up in is not necessarily the world that they're going to experience," said DeFur, as he prayed.

They know it this tragedy could just as easily have happened right here at home.

"Could happen at Bearden. Could happen at West Town Mall. Could happen anywhere you and I go," said DeFur.

Cokesbury has a sister church less than a mile away from Sandy Hook  Elementary School in Newtown.

They've been in contact with Sandy Hook United Methodist to find out if there is any way they can help, including covering funeral costs for any of the victim's families.

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