Two days after a 20-year-old man's shooting rampage in Connecticut took 26 lives before his own, metro-east church pastors were still trying to find a way to make sense of the senseless violence by Sunday morning.
In Edwardsville, Rev. Stephen Disney was rethinking his approach after the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. claimed the lives of 20 first-grade students and six adults, including the gunman's mother.
Disney, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Edwardsville, said he strongly believed that addressing the recent mass shooting before his congregation was important in order to help begin the healing process.
"If I had not addressed this, I would not have been doing my duty as the pastor of that church," he said.
He found an answer in the Bible, in book of Philippians. He said that in verses 4 through 7, the apostle Paul calls upon Christians to "rejoice in the Lord always," because the peace of God transcends all understanding.
"We can have this joy, no matter what the outer circumstances," he said. "I talked about it in terms of some of the aspects of this tragedy. As a pastor, I felt as other pastors did, we have some responsibility to address this for our people because we as a nation, I think, most of us are hurting."
Rev. Achilles Karathanos, of Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Swansea, spoke about the tragedy in Connecticut and offered his prayer.
"We prayed for the departed souls and their families," Karathanos said.
At Peace Lutheran Church in Belleville, seminarian Matthew A. Goetz, who is the church intern, talked about the need for people to allow time for mourning.
"My brothers and sisters, I can tell you that there is good news, but to jump to it directly without allowing time for lamentation and for the restoring work of the Holy Spirit to move in and through us, any swift resolution to our grief will not prove sustaining," Goetz said in his sermon.
Goetz also told the congregation that God is with us during times of great suffering and sorrow.
"God is here in you and in me," he said. "Our tears are God's tears, our sorrow is God's sorrow and our life is God's life. May we live it as those most loved by God, remembering that we are never alone..."
At Central Christian Church in O'Fallon, senior pastor Darren McCormick reminded his congregation that as they prepare to celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, infanticide followed. According to the Gospel of Matthew, after hearing that a newborn King of the Jews had been born in Bethlehem, King Herod, the Roman-appointed King of the Jews, ordered that all of the village's baby boy's be killed so he would not lose his throne.
"I mentioned the fact that a lot of people are not aware that at the first Christmas there were acts of evil performed against children," McCormick said. "I talked about King Herod, who had ordered the deaths and slaying of all boys 2 years old and under. Herod was trying to kill Christ."
At Eden United Church of Christ in Edwardsville, senior pastor John Roberts talked about looking for answers after the senseless massacre in Connecticut. He said Christmas is also a time to remind us how God sent His only son as the savior of humanity who died on the cross for mankind's sins.
"Christmas is a gift of wisdom from God," Roberts said. "God helps us make order and make sense of the world we live in."
Disney said he had deliberated over changing the closing hymn for Sunday services. Although he had initially planned the seasonal song "Joy to the World," he later thought that the hymn might not have been appropriate given Friday's act of mass violence in New England. In the end, he decided to not change it.
"I wrestled with this for hours," he said. "And I decided, no. If we are going to tell our people, despite the circumstances, that we can still have joy radiate Christmas love in this dark world we live in, this song is appropriate as our closing song."
McCormick told his congregation that God is still not satisfied with the way the world is, but will prevail.
"Christ came to change this to get us to the point in the future as followers so that there will be no more death or pain or evil," McCormick said. "God will overcome."
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2526.