From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Church still helping five years after Oklahoma City bombing

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 20 Apr 2000 14:53:11

April 20, 2000      News media contact: Thomas S. McAnally*(615)
742-5470*Nashville, Tenn.     10-71B{218}

By Boyce Bowdon*

OKLAHOMA CITY (UMNS) -- More than 7,000 people gathered across the street
from First United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City April 19 to reflect on
what happened there five years earlier.

It was 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, when a bomb destroyed the nine-story
Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing at least 168 people, injuring at
least 500 others, and damaging at least two hundred buildings in the area,
including First United Methodist Church.

Despite the size of the crowd and the notables who were present, the
gathering was not unlike a private memorial service. Present were survivors,
people who had lost family members in the bombing, and those who had risked
their lives during the rescue and recovery efforts that continued for nearly
20 days following the blast. 

Speakers at the memorial service included the Rev. Robert Allen, who
coordinated a corps of 200 chaplains that ministered to rescue and recovery
workers at the bomb site.  At that time, he was pastor of Wesley United
Methodist Church in Oklahoma City, but he now serves in Wichita Falls,

"When we get knocked flat on our backs, all we can do is look up," he said.
"Even when we can't understand why such a senseless and devastating disaster
has occurred, let us remember that God is with us. And that with God's help
we can make the most of even this disaster."

Activities related to the fifth anniversary of the bombing and the
dedication of the Oklahoma City National Memorial continued throughout the
day.  President Bill Clinton, in his message at the dedication in the
evening, said, "There are places in our national landscape so scarred by
freedom's sacrifice that they shape forever the soul of America.  This site
is such sacred ground.

"We may never have all the answers for what happened here," the president
said, "but as we continue our journey toward understanding, one truth is
clear: What was meant to break has made you stronger."

During his time in Oklahoma City, Clinton and those with him were
headquartered at First United Methodist Church. The pastor, Nick Harris,
gave him a tour of the facility, showing him how the church had been rebuilt
following the bombing. 

In less than an hour after the bombing, vital services and resources were
being provided by United Methodist congregations and districts from the
Oklahoma and Oklahoma Indian Missionary annual conferences. Also helping
were the United Methodist Committee on Relief and individual church members
from the community and beyond.
The United Methodist help was primarily in the areas of direct aid,
advocacy, pastoral care and education. Examples included: 
Direct aid
* Assisting people left homeless by the bomb, including indigent and street
people who had been living in or around the blast area.
* Helping people who lost jobs because of the blast and its effect on their
* Helping survivors discover and obtain assistance.
* Providing consultants who had ties in the Hispanic communities to minister
to the needs of residents.
Pastoral care
* Working closely with Skyline Urban Ministries in Oklahoma City to provide
physical, material, emotional and spiritual care. 
* Providing free trauma counseling.
* Maintaining a presence in downtown Oklahoma City to identify and address
emerging needs.
* Providing care for United Methodist clergy who served as counselors and in
other roles. 
* Holding educational workshops for mental health workers and other
* Providing grief workshops and long-term training events for clergy and
* Providing workshops for adult workers with children suffering from grief.
* Providing money for repairing and rebuilding and specialists to work with
youth workers.

Today, United Methodists and church-related agencies continue to minister to
those who are still hurting.
*  *  *
*Bowdon is director of communications for the Oklahoma Annual Conference of
the United Methodist Church. 

United Methodist News Service
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