By Barb Brouwer
As Salmon Arm residents continue to deal with shock and sorrow following the murder of Gordon Parmenter during a Sunday service at the Church of Christ, support is being offered from a number of sources.
First United Minister Jenny Carter has told the Church of Christ congregation they are welcome to hold their own worship services in First United Church, as a way of “loving our neighbours and when they’re in a time of need to say how can we help.”
“I think that when something like this happens it’s a tragedy; our hearts are just broken for the Parmenter Family and my heart is just broken for the congregation that they had to witness such violence,” says Carter, calling on the community to draw closer to one another.
Carter says she plans to call people together at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 17 for a prayer service and a sharing of worries and sadness.
Living Waters Pastor David St. John says he is looking at what his church can do to reach out to the people of the Church of Christ.
“We have a team to especially focus on prayer and needs, and we certainly have them active on this,” he says.
The tragedy has led St. John to look at his own church to see if there are steps that are needed to be taken to protect his own congregation.
“It’s hard to know how something like this can affect the community; we’re in new territory and I’m finding my way forward,” St. John says. “This happens in other places, not here, but here it is here.”
In response, St John says it is important to choose faith rather than fear.
Help is also being offered by a two-person rapid response team from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Calgary.
Frank King, news media relations manager for the association, says the rapid response teams were created a few years after 9/11 when Franklin Graham noticed there was nobody to help with spiritual and emotional difficulties. A couple of years later, the association introduced the rapid response teams to Canada, with approximately 200 specially trained chaplains now located across the country.
Chaplains Rick Benner and his wife, Sally, came to Salmon Arm, concerned about the effects the devastating tragedy is having on members of the Church of Christ.
“We got together with with people at their usual coffee place and listened to their stories and what had unfolded,” Rick said. “Part of recovery is telling the story, in some cases over and over as necessary.”
One man had been sitting right beside Parmenter when he was shot.
“That’s not easy and it’s not going to be easy for him,” says Rick, pointing out that, if allowed, there is a cycle in the process of healing. “One lady I spoke with said ‘I’ That’s perfectly normal in an abnormal situation and people need to hear that.”
The Benners plan to leave Wednesday, feeling confident the church community will be fine on their own.
He says a Christian member of the RCMP debriefed the congregation Sunday night and the members of the church are close and supportive.
“They are a very tight-knit Christian family; they really love each other and are talking to each other, and I am sure they will watch out for each other,” says Rick, noting he and Sally have been made to feel very welcome in this “lovely community.”